Beyond Holy Russia
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Cover
Contents
Index
Colophon: Half-Title, Title, Copyright, Dedication

1. Chasing the Shadow

Stephen Graham was born in Edinburgh in March 1884, in a house near Calton Hill, distinctive then as now for the Parthenon-like monument that caps its summit, designed by the architect William Playfair as a memorial for those who died in the Napoleonic wars. It was snowing heavily, not a particularly unusual event for the final weeks of winter in Scotland’s capital city, but still rare enough for the young Stephen to be regaled throughout his childhood with stories of how the “big wet snow-flakes” had driven against the windows on the day he entered the world. He was still speculating eight decades later whether his fascination with snow had been one of the factors that first led him to Russia.

Graham’s early life remains surprisingly impervious to even the most sleuth-like biographical inquiry, for despite the confessional style that became the hallmark of so much that he wrote, his apparent candour often concealed a good deal more than it exposed. His description of childhood fills fewer than three pages of the autobiography he published in 1964, and the few episodes he chose to recall have a slightly fantastic character about them, coloured both by the passing of the years and his life-long vivid imagination.1 Stephen remembered himself as a toddler with “golden curly hair”, dressed like a girl, who was stolen away by the gypsies to “begin a begging career”. All came right, though, when he was found by the police and returned home, after which his father cut off his flowing locks and dressed him in an altogether more masculine sailor suit. Graham’s other recollections of childhood were equally episodic if less exotic. He remembered being a chronic sleepwalker, his nocturnal ramblings often concluded by a swift clip round the ear from his father, who was seemingly untroubled by the prospect of startling his son into wakefulness. He also recalled how his best friend Kenny Self helped to foster in him an interest in moths and other insects, that led him to become an avid youthful collector of lepidoptera, earning him the nickname “legs and wings” from his childhood friends.2 “Our friendship lasted six or seven years. During that time I was in love with him, make of that what you will. At night I used to haunt the street where he lived, watching for a glimpse of his face at a window. I hoped that his house would burn down so that I might rush through the flames to save him”. The two boys also acted together in a school production of A Merchant of Venice, Kenny taking the part of the maid Nerissa, and Stephen the role of Portia, who dons men’s clothing in order to masquerade as a lawyer to defend Antonio from Shylock’s bloodthirsty demand for his pound of flesh. It would be unwise to read too much into such memories. It was, after all, inevitable that boys would have to play female parts in an education system that was strictly segregated by sex. Graham’s recollections cannot in any case always be trusted. An unwavering commitment to the accurate delineation of past events was never the hallmark of his literary work. The brief hotch-potch of childhood anecdotes recounted in the opening pages of the published version of Part of the Wonderful Scene was designed to provide colour rather than insight. It may also have been designed to conceal some of the oddities of his upbringing. The eighty-year old Graham had little real interest in regaling his readers with accurate remembrances of his eight-year old self.

The father who cut off young Stephen’s golden hair was the journalist and future Country Life editor Peter Anderson Graham (invariably known professionally by the moniker P. Anderson Graham). Graham senior had been born in 1856, in the border town of Crookham in Northumbria, the second eldest of a family of four boys and one girl. The Graham clan subsequently moved to Edinburgh, where they settled in Arthur Street, just a few minutes from the city centre. The family circumstances were not particularly prosperous. The 1881 census, which noted Anderson Graham’s profession as “journalist and leader writer”, also recorded that two of his brothers were respectively a “press-maker” and a “journeyman ironmonger”. The third was an apprentice draper. Their father worked as a “weigher” at one of Edinburgh’s numerous train stations (although his profession was recorded in a later census as railway clerk). Despite this less than propitious background for a literary career, Anderson Graham was able to attend Edinburgh University, before subsequently establishing himself on the Edinburgh Courant, a Conservative paper whose contributors were committed to countering the Liberal influence of The Scotsman in “this Whig-ridden country”.3 Stephen Graham subsequently recalled that his father was always a “hot Tory”.

Anderson Graham later belonged to the circle of young men who surrounded the celebrated writer and critic W.E. Henley, famous amongst other things for his assault on the aestheticism of Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde, as well as his memorable dismissal of socialism as the “dominion of the common fool”.4 Henley had first travelled to Edinburgh in 1873 to seek medical treatment from Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, during which time he became a close friend of the novelist and travel-writer Robert Louis Stevenson. He returned to Scotland at the end of the 1880s, as editor of the newly-established Scots Observer, before going back to London in 1892 to edit the paper under its new and more imposing title of the National Observer. It was during this period that he became celebrated for furthering the careers of a whole host of young writers including J.M. Barrie and Kenneth Grahame. It was also during this time that Anderson Graham came firmly into Henley’s orbit, although the two men may have met earlier during the latter’s previous sojourns in Edinburgh. Anderson had moved his family from Edinburgh to Gloucestershire soon after Stephen was born, to take up the editorship of the Gloucestershire Echo, a provincial paper of some importance, but within a short time he decided to give up his post in order to move to London and concentrate on his literary ambitions. Stephen later recalled that during this time, when the family lived in Hornsey, they were “very poor”, with the result that he was expected to act as “shopper for the family, saving a penny there and a ha’penny here”.5 His memory of events may once again have been over-coloured; although the family’s pecuniary circumstances imposed on them a frugal life-style, not least because there were by the mid 1890s six children to feed and clothe, there was still enough money to keep a maid. The area of London they lived in was in any case characterised more by genteel poverty than real material deprivation. The family’s life-style would have been familiar to the fictional Mr Pooter, the pompously respectable clerk whose ruminations on life feature in George and Weedon Grossmith’s comic classic Diary of a Nobody, first published in Punch at the end of the 1880s, when the Grahams were already resident in Hornsey.

Stephen’s family was, then, a literary if impecunious one. His mother Jane (née Macleod) had been a librarian before her marriage to Anderson Graham in Edinburgh in 1881. Her son later spoke of how she “handled first editions of Ruskin and Browning” – two of his favourite childhood authors – although a moment’s reflection suggests that, since both men were still alive when Jane was working, this was more a statement of fact than any indication that she once enjoyed privileged access to rare material.6 Graham also recalled how his mother seemed to him as he grew up like a character in a Walter Scott novel – “unhappy, pure, romantic and heroic”.7 Jane certainly had a deep aversion to the mundane business of household management, preferring to bury her head in a book, which perhaps explains why Stephen was promoted at a young age to the status of the family’s shopper-in-chief. It is also clear that she represented a potent presence in her son’s life, even though he barely mentioned her in his autobiography. During a deep personal crisis in his mid-forties, soon after she died, he wrote private notes of anguish to her in the diary he kept detailing the depths of his despair.

The best portrait of Jane appears in Graham’s 1934 novel Lost Battle which detailed, in a thinly-fictionalised form, the disintegration of his parents’ marriage, as it collapsed around 1900 when Anderson Graham left home to establish a new life elsewhere. A shy and retiring woman, who had few relationships outside the home, Jane had a strong taste for “literary romanticism” and spent much of her time reading the novels of Scott. She also read a great deal of French and Italian literature. “Jeannie Macrimmon” – as she appears in Lost Battle – developed a close and even intense relationship with her eldest child Mark (the alter ego of Stephen Graham himself). The two often stayed up late whilst the mother read to her son, dreaming that he might one day become a celebrated writer, succeeding in the literary world that tantalized her so greatly but which always appeared so remote. Although “Jeannie” was devoted to her other five children – four girls and a boy – it was in Mark that she seemed to find a sympathetic spark for her “romantic and imaginative” nature. The relationship provided her with some kind of emotional compensation for what was, at least to the jaundiced eyes of Stephen Graham as he looked back from the vantage point of later years, his parents’ joyless and empty marriage.

The portrait of Anderson Graham painted by his son in Lost Battle was far more acerbic. The character of John Rae Belfort – as Anderson appears in the book – could hardly have been more different from that of his wife. Whilst “Jeanie Macrimmon” was mild-mannered and other-worldly, “John Belfort” was a hard-drinking and irascible individual, who desperately aspired to a literary career, but was constantly frustrated at having to turn his hand to hack-work to support his large family. He also possessed a fierce temper that inspired considerable trepidation in his wife and children. When at home in Essex – where the real Graham family moved in the early 1890s – John Belfort spent most of his time alone in his study playing chess. He could also be heard from time to time pacing up and down his bedroom reciting old Scottish ballads for hours on end.

The fictional Belfort achieved some success by writing about agricultural issues – as did Anderson Graham – and his absence from home on periodic tours around Britain was welcomed by his wife and children who relished the peace that reigned when he was away. The brittle marriage that Stephen Graham portrayed in Lost Battle finally came to an end when Belfort left home for a much younger woman. The book traces how the grown-up Mark, by now a successful writer in his own right, gradually re-established a relationship with his father and his two children by his second “marriage” (Belfort, like Anderson, never formally divorced his first wife). It is difficult to know to what extent Lost Battle represented anything more than a thinly-fictionalised account of the Graham household. The census records show that by 1911 Anderson Graham was living apart from his family with two new children in St Albans, although he had left his first family many years earlier, probably when Stephen was about sixteen. In the years that followed he built a substantial house in large grounds near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, paid for by his earnings from Country Life, and a series of articles on rural affairs in publications including the Morning Post and the St James’ Gazette. The portrait of John Rae Belfort in Lost Battle certainly tallies with the little that is known of the biography and character of Anderson Graham himself. Stephen remarked in his diary after his father’s death that there were many mysteries about his family that he could never fathom. The same uncertainties confront his biographer.

Anderson Graham was, like many of those who made up the world of late Victorian belles lettres, very much a professional writer, dependent on his pen to earn his living, rather than a gentleman of leisure blessed with the means to contribute to the press according to his particular whim and interest. His articles appeared in publications ranging from the Evening Standard and the Morning Post to Longman’s Magazine and The New Review. Stephen later remembered that it was his father who “taught me to write”, making him re-tell the story of Kidnapped in sentences of no more than sixteen words, an exercise designed to emphasise the importance of brevity in effective communication. Despite the acerbic portrait of Anderson Graham in Lost Battle he still seems to have had a significant influence on his son’s early life, not least in helping him realise that a literary career would always involve as much grind as inspiration. Stephen’s later work-ethic and pride in earning his living from his pen were doubtless inherited from his father – just as the more intuitive and instinctive side of his character seems to have been shaped by his mother.

Graham père also in later years provided his eldest son with valuable advice about publishing his work, and opened the columns of Country Life to him at a time when Stephen was still struggling to find a market for his writing (the two men seem to have re-established their relationship after the hiatus caused by Anderson’s departure from the family home in Essex). Stephen later returned the favour by helping his father to publicise his now long-forgotten science fiction novel, The Collapse of Homo Sapiens (1923), which Anderson published when he was in his mid-sixties, long after any fame he once enjoyed had been eclipsed by his son’s. Nor was Stephen the only child in the Graham household to inherit the literary gene. His younger sister Eleanor was in later life to achieve fame as a children’s author, most notably with The Children who Lived in a Barn, as well as playing a key role in establishing the celebrated Puffin series of books, which published such classics as Barbara Euphan Todd’s Wurzel Gummidge and Roger Lancelyn Green’s version of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Anderson Graham’s influence on his son was not confined to advising him about the skills he would need to succeed as a professional writer. He also propagated in him a suspicion of the modern world that was to become a defining motif in the books that Stephen later wrote about his time in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Anderson Graham was from a young age concerned about the declining health of rural Britain, fearing that the rhythms of traditional society were being undermined by the twin processes of industrialisation and urbanisation, a theme that ran through his 1892 book The Rural Exodus. Although he told his readers that addressing the problem should not become a matter of party politics, there was something profoundly Tory about his prescriptions, which were rooted in a sense that any changes should take place “slowly and gradually” and be rooted “in the hearts and minds of the people”.8 Nor was Anderson Graham’s concern about the countryside simply a matter of economics and sociology. He also had a strong interest in the natural world (although this may in part have been prompted by his recognition that there was a ready market for books and articles on the subject). His first lengthy published work on Nature in Books, which appeared in 1891, contained essays on the naturalist Richard Jefferies and the American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. His third book, All the Year with Nature (1893), which was dedicated to W.E. Henley, contained a series of articles on topics ranging from ‘Birds-Nesting’ through to ‘The Harvest Labour’. Although most of the pieces were quite light-hearted, if sometimes marred by a rather laboured whimsy, their author did occasionally intersperse his meditations with more serious reflections on the state of rural society. He also succumbed to a lyrical celebration of the English countryside, despite half-jestingly warning against such extravagance, writing movingly of his love of winter evenings when “the distant woods are visible in the last streaks of daylight, and the blackening train of crows are hurrying to cold perches on the oaks”.9

The essays in Nature in Books were more serious in tone, suggesting that whilst all human beings would in time become weary of seeking fame or material possessions, the appeal of “the music and pageantry of earth” would never fail.10 Although Anderson Graham did not share the nature-mysticism of Richard Jefferies, he provided a sensitive account of his work, showing how Jefferies’ love of the countryside provided him with a sense of meaning missing elsewhere in his life. And, in his chapter on Wordsworth, Anderson firmly dismissed critics who failed to engage with the poet’s religious views or rejected them as incoherent and immature. He criticised those who refused to see in nature anything more than an impersonally bleak world, arguing that “Right as it is for us to know and feel something of the sadness and melancholy that cast their sober mantle over so much of the universe, it is no less desirable to avoid a too morbid gloating over them, and to feel and appreciate the joy that, in spite of artificial restraints, is awakened by the happy carol of a bird, the glow of sunshine, the gambol of younglings, the beauty of landscape”.11 Whilst Graham senior was reluctant to ascribe any definite metaphysical meaning to the natural world, he consciously rejected the post-Darwinian sense that the beauty of the countryside represented nothing more than the accidental by-product of natural selection. It was a view echoed many years later by his son, who found in his massive hikes through the Russian countryside a sense of mystery that hinted at realms of meaning lying far beyond the limited horizons of the material world.

The extent to which Anderson Graham was a real countryman is open to debate. Although he was born in rural Northumberland, his parents’ move to Edinburgh took place when he was a young boy, and much of his life was spent in towns and cities. Whilst he discussed the rural economy quite knowledgeably in The Rural Exodus, there is little evidence that he had much real sense of the intricate practices of agriculture. Even though his observations of the natural world were often acute, they showed no real evidence of a deep knowledge of birds and animals. Anderson Graham was certainly a lover of dogs, and his family at various times owned a fox-terrier and a deer-hound called Fingal, presumably named for the character in Ossian, but though he wrote of shooting and hunting it is not clear that he was a passionate devotee of country sports.12 Nor is it clear to what extent Stephen Graham’s own early years were actively shaped by his father’s uncertain interest in rural affairs. Anderson published a book called Country Pastimes for Boys,13 when Stephen was thirteen, which contained various Boy’s Own information on such topics as collecting birds’ eggs and catching fish. The book was, however, written for an essentially suburban middle class readership, anxious to find ways of ensuring that their children had something to do in the holidays, rather than an audience who already possessed an intimate knowledge of the countryside. Stephen’s own interest in lepidoptery comes across as that of a child raised in the suburbs, rather than characteristic of a boy intimately familiar with the life of the fields, although a fictionalised account of his early childhood published in the early 1920s revealed the depth of his passion for the subject.14 Anderson Graham may well have made a real attempt to inculcate a love of the English countryside in his children, but if he did it would necessarily have been the love of an outsider, given that the family’s daily life was spent in north London and suburban Essex.

P. Anderson Graham’s combination of skills and interests meant that he was a natural choice in 1900 for the post of editor of Country Life, established three years earlier, to capitalise on a wistful nostalgia for an imaginary rural past amongst a middle class readership that overwhelmingly derived its income from commerce and industry.15 The Arts and Crafts movement had been in full swing in Britain from the 1880s, characterised by a search for a new aesthetic style in art and architecture, intended to counter the soulless products of a mechanised age which denigrated the craft principle in favour of industrial efficiency.16 In a supreme irony, the search for the authentic and traditional quickly became big business, as magazines like Country Life promoted such products as wood panelling from Liberty’s of London, designed to adorn the dining rooms of the expensive new country homes advertised in its property pages. The magazine also carried numerous articles about aspects of rural life, ranging from stock-breeding through to fox-hunting, as well as publishing more literary pieces about travel and politics.

Anderson Graham was well-suited to manage such an enterprise (he also contributed many of the magazine’s articles and columns). He had for many years been a devotee of John Ruskin, who served as a kind of guru for the Arts and Crafts movement, whilst his own idealised view of the English countryside dovetailed neatly with the ethos that Country Life tried so hard to promote. Anderson also possessed the hard journalistic skills needed to ensure that the magazine was run professionally, and responded to the demands of its readership, who bought it precisely because they aspired to the life-style it promoted. The portrayal of the English countryside that appeared in Country Life under Anderson Graham’s editorship was a commercial product, reflecting the financial imperatives of a journalism that pandered to the longings of a particular section of urban society. The Russia that Stephen Graham was later to place before his readers was also in large part a fictional product, reflecting the hopes and dreams of its author, whilst at the same time being carefully calculated to appeal to the instincts and yearnings of his audience. He was, like his father, adept at recognising that romantic nostalgia and distrust of the modern industrial world were marketable commodities, capable of appealing to an urban readership anxious to hear about worlds they could imagine but never inhabit.

The young Stephen Graham was educated at Sir George Monoux Grammar School in Chingford, where he proved an able if sometimes lazy student, who had to be bribed by his father to apply himself properly to his studies. He made his greatest mark on the Latin teacher, one Mr Adams, who took a shine to his young pupil and awarded him the highest grades of any boy in class, before abandoning his teaching career to take up farming. Graham was in his own words, “always fighting, playing practical jokes, committing juvenile crimes, and getting chased by the police”, memories that he drew on many years later in his 1922 novel Under-London, which described the lives of a small group of boys growing up in an East London suburb at the end of the nineteenth century. Despite his various misdemeanours, Graham became School captain, a result he believed of his popularity with the other boys as well as many of the masters.17 He left at fifteen because his father was too poor to send him to university – the lucrative Country Life appointment still lay a year ahead – and within a few months Stephen was commuting to work as a clerk in the Bankruptcy Court at Carey Street in central London.

Anderson Graham was instrumental in encouraging his son to join the Civil Service, pointing out the benefits of a regular income and pension denied to the freelance journalist. Graham’s office duties were very dull, consisting of routine clerical work and the daily distribution of the mail, but he at least had time to pursue his interest in literature. Within a few years he progressed to a post as staff clerk at Somerset House, where the grind of office life was interspersed with games of table-tennis in the basement, along with debates amongst “a distinguished company of young men” about such topics as “the Basis of Love”.

Graham fell in love with a series of young women during these years, although his idea of courtship seems to have been excruciatingly earnest, consisting largely of forays into the countryside to engage in discussion about the virtues of various poets. There was a good deal of interest in literary matters amongst the clerks at Somerset House, several of whom later progressed to careers in journalism, and they eagerly followed such contemporary controversies as the dispute between Hilaire Belloc and George Bernard Shaw that followed the publication of the former’s The Servile State.18 Graham himself read widely – Ruskin and Carlyle being particular favourites – but the course of his life changed one day when he found a battered copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment on sale in a barrow in central London. He was immediately captivated by the brooding story of the student Raskolnikov, whose life was haunted by remorse following his murder of an elderly female pawnbroker, undertaken in a desperate act of defiance to assert his autonomy from the moral claims of the world around him. The “grand discovery” of an author who had, in Graham’s words, “passed into oblivion”, prompted the start of his life-long love affair with all things Russian. He insisted on sharing his discovery with a girlfriend who was ten years his senior, another harbinger of his future life, for Graham was over the next few years repeatedly attracted to women considerably older than himself.

Graham was right in suggesting that Dostoevsky commanded little interest in Britain in the early 1900s. Although a number of his novels had been translated into French and English some years earlier – and subsequently became very popular during the First World War – the author of Crime and Punishment was not particularly widely read in Britain during the early years of the twentieth century.19 Russia itself had for centuries been seen by many Britons as little more than a remote and sinister void on the periphery of Europe. The era of the Great Game – that curious nineteenth-century duel of British and Russian soldier-explorers played out in the remote deserts and mountains of central Asia – helped to fuel the idea that Tsarist Russia was a natural enemy of the British Empire.20 Nor was Anglo-Russian antagonism simply a matter of geopolitics. The final decades of the nineteenth century also witnessed a growing campaign by British radicals to warn their fellow-countrymen that the despotic Russian Government posed a major challenge to the liberties and security of the entire continent.21 H.G. Wells, who in the years before the First World War shared this bien-pensant distaste for the empire of the tsars, later summarised the situation accurately when he recalled that for many Britons, Russia had always seemed “a fabulous country […] a wilderness of wolves, knouts, serfdom, and cruelty [as well as] Bogey Russia, which had ‘designs’ – on India, on all the world”.22 This long tradition of Russophobia had nevertheless become subject to challenge by the time Graham picked up his translation of Crime and Punishment a few years into the twentieth century. The publication in 1877 of Donald Mackenzie Wallace’s magisterial Russia had provided a British audience with a more substantial account of the country than the usual pot-pourri of travellers’ tales that so often shaped popular views of Russia. The British Museum librarian William Ralston published an important volume of Russian folk tales in 1869,23 as well as translating the work of Ivan Turgenev, who was himself offered an Honorary D.Litt by Oxford University in 1879.24 New translations of the most important novels of the Russian golden age began to appear in considerable numbers during the 1880s and 1890s, which although not always of the best quality, gave their British audience an insight into a literary tradition so different from the ones with which they were familiar.25 There was also a growing audience for Russian music, not least thanks to the work of the formidable writer and critic Rosa Newmarch, who had studied under Vladimir Stasov in St Petersburg, and later wrote numerous programme notes for the annual Proms season in London.26 The idea that Russian culture was somehow more youthful and vigorous than the culture of Western Europe was becoming deeply entrenched in at least some British literary and artistic circles by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century.27 When the young Stephen Graham first became engrossed in the novels of Dostoevsky, he was travelling a road already well-trodden by many of his fellow-countrymen.

The appeal of Russia to a new generation of British Russophiles was bound up with its exotic and even oriental character, a place concealing behind its strange veneer a world distinguished by a brooding intensity. Graham was so taken by Crime and Punishment precisely because it was much “more profound” than a “murder story”, adding that “There is a hidden x in it. Let x be the soul of man, or let x be the meaning of life, something not familiar to the Western mind but, once sensed, for ever haunting. I was on the trail of a religious philosophy more inspiring than Carlyle or Ibsen or Nietzsche”.28 The references to Carlyle and Nietzsche were not accidental. Graham’s taste in reading as a young man focused on authors who sought to articulate a complete vision of life, and there was more than a hint of hero-worship in his attitude towards the writers he most admired, which he ruefully noted a few years later resembled that of “a young girl in love with a new history mistress”.29 The youthful Graham was, like so many men of his age, searching for a pattern of significance that he could not find in the daily bureaucratic round. He had from the age of fourteen become “secretly religious”, although religion already appeared to him less a matter of doctrine and more a form of spiritual quest, which assumed that the meaning of life could never be reduced to its purely material aspect.30 In an unpublished version of his autobiography, he wrote that he had from his school years developed a “philosophy of prayer” in which prayer was “addressed [to] a secret power inside yourself”, which later manifested itself in a belief that the divine permeated all aspects of creation and was often best-found “within”.31 By the time he reached his early twenties, the idea of Russia had become for Graham a kind of intellectual and emotional lodestar – a mythical place glimpsed through the prism of literature, where life seemed to possess a richness that was missing in the tediously ordered world of Edwardian Britain, where he was confined to expressing his individuality by wearing his hair long under “strange-looking hats”.32 The Romantic streak he inherited from his mother – a yearning for places half-imagined but little known – was helping to shape his growing disenchantment with humdrum existence at Somerset House and in the suburbs of Essex.

Most Britons who developed a taste for Russian literature were content to rely on translations, but Graham was determined to learn the language himself, so he could read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in the original. He tried to study alone, making notes from a Russian grammar book, but when the results proved disappointing he wrote to the Russian consul in London asking for details of possible tutors. It was in this way that he came into contact with Nikolai Lebedev, the twenty-year old son of a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church, who had come to London from a village near Kharkov in order to improve his English. The two young men quickly became good friends, and the relaxed regime at Somerset House meant that lessons could take place during office hours, at least until the appointment of a less accommodating supervisor meant that they had to be deferred until lunch-time or evening (his predecessor fell down the steep office steps and broke his neck). The arrangement came to an end, at least temporarily, when Lebedev was offered lucrative work as a translator at the Vickers shipyards at Barrow-in-Furness, in north-west England, where a number of ships were being built for the Russian navy. The youthful friendship between the two men was nevertheless destined to have an important impact on Graham’s future. When he finally decided to abandon his life in London in order to move to Russia, with the intention of earning his living as a writer, it was to the Lebedev house that he first travelled.

Graham’s first trip to Russia took place in 1906, at the age of twenty two, when he booked four weeks leave from his Civil Service post in order to see the country with his own eyes. It was not a propitious time to visit. The defeats suffered by Russia during the recent war with Japan had prompted the start of major disturbances, and by the middle of 1905 it looked as though the country might be headed for a full-blown revolution. The concessions offered by Tsar Nicholas II in October helped to calm the public mood, but periodic unrest continued to erupt for many months to come, both in the cities and especially in the depths of the Russian countryside. Graham travelled to Russia by train through Holland and Germany, armed with a Kodak camera to record his impressions – the editor of Black and White said the magazine would publish any photographs of particular interest – but without the revolver offered by a well-meaning friend who believed that he might need it at a time when “the bombs were flying thick and fast”.33 He arrived in Warsaw, a city that was then within the Tsarist Empire, on the day a senior official was assassinated. Graham was himself arrested by a group of soldiers, who doubted his bona fides, and was taken under armed guard to the local jail. Although his incarceration was brief, the Rus newspaper reported that he had been beaten severely, news that “somehow […] came to England as the arrest and flogging of Mr Foster Fraser” (a well-known foreign correspondent of the time).34

After this excitement, Graham went to Moscow, where he once again attracted the attention of the local authorities, before heading on to the city of Nizhni Novgorod in order to see the annual fair there. He witnessed with some shock the activities of the local prostitutes, who sat with their legs apart on the steps of the brothels, canvassing for business from the numerous visitors to the town.35 Graham himself was more taken with the “respectable” women who passed him on the streets of Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod, seeing in them “replicas of Turgenev’s heroines”. Despite his good looks and physical stature – Graham was well over six feet tall – none of them were attracted by an impoverished Englishman who could only speak their language with stuttering hesitation. He therefore consoled himself with the purchase of a scimitar and a filigree belt, along with a pair of scarlet and gold slippers, which he carried back to London at the end of his holiday. He arrived in Britain to be hailed by his friends and colleagues as “a local lion” who had ventured into the dangerous world of Russia and lived to tell of his experience.

It is hard to establish the chronology of Graham’s first visit to Russia in much detail, not least because of several contradictions in his own accounts of the trip, but it is clear that he did not grasp (and perhaps did not want to grasp) the significance of the things he witnessed. The upheavals of 1905-6, which Lenin later described as a dress-rehearsal for 1917, provided stark evidence that Tsarist Russia was already going through rapid social and economic change. The country had become the fifth largest industrial power in the world, and large-scale urban growth was creating considerable social tension in cities like Moscow and St Petersburg, as millions of peasants migrated from the countryside to work in the newly-built factories. The Russia that Graham had fallen in love with back in London – the land of golden cupolas and country estates that provided the setting for the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – had always been a largely mythical place. Books such as Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina no more offered a realistic portrayal of Russia in the 1860s and 1870s than The Pickwick Papers did of Britain in the 1830s. And, in any case, the social and political world portrayed in the novels of Russia’s golden age had changed almost beyond recognition by the early years of the twentieth century. The turbulent events of the 1905-6 Revolution did not lead Graham to question the accuracy of the images of Russia that had formed in his mind long before he first set eyes on the country. He had already begun to create the mythological Holy Russia that was to feature so large in his writing in the years before 1917.

Graham found it difficult to settle back into the routines of his old life when he returned home to Britain from Moscow. Although he punctuated his work at Somerset House by giving occasional lectures on literary topics, he continued to yearn for “new life, broader horizons, deeper depths, higher heights”.36 He later recalled that his decision to “give up everything and go to Russia” had come to him one Sunday at St Ethelburga’s Church, in the City of London, when he was inspired by the preacher’s words that “No one has achieved much in life who has not at some time or other staked everything upon an act of faith”. His superior at Somerset House warned against taking any rash step that might throw away “the substance for the shadow”, pointing out that he could look forward to receiving a generous pension after another thirty five years of work. Graham was confident enough to resist such unappealing blandishments, insisting that “I am going after the shadow”.37 He nevertheless told few people about his intention, fearing that they might dissuade him, for he was more nervous than he admitted about making such a drastic move. Even so, whilst his decision to move to Russia in the hope of earning his living from his pen was undoubtedly brave, it was one he made knowing that his father was now in a position to offer a modest degree of financial support (Country Life paid its editor generously, and by the outbreak of the First World War Anderson Graham was rich enough to build a fine Lutyens-designed house in Hertfordshire). Graham was convinced that the growing public interest in Russia meant that there would be a ready market for his work, and he grandly hoped to popularise the country’s literature and thought in the same way that Carlyle had interpreted the ideas of the German Idealists for a British audience two generations earlier. The self-confessed Romantic who determined to pursue the “shadow” was always realistic enough to think seriously about the practical business of earning a living.

Graham made the decision to quit his job in June, but he left for Russia only six months later, on the last day of 1907. He was headed for Lisitchansk, a town south-east of Kharkov in modern-day Ukraine, where he had been invited to stay by the family of his old friend Nikolai Lebedev. The journey was an eventful one, and provided him with an uncomfortable introduction to the harsh realities of life in the Tsarist Empire. Once Graham left the ordered world of Germany, where the trains were spotless and punctual, he was forced to confront the reality of third-class travel in Russia in a carriage that was “unspeakable filthy”. He was nevertheless impressed by the smoothness of the Russian trains, which ran on broader gauges than the rolling stock of western Europe, giving a “pleasantly soothing” ride that allowed passengers to “slip easily into slumber”.38 A less soothing introduction to provincial Russia was provided by one of his travelling companions, who stole Graham’s overcoat whilst he was asleep, no minor matter in the depths of a Russian winter. By the time he got to Kharkov, Graham only had a light coat to protect him against thirty degrees of frost, and his woes continued when it became clear that his luggage had also gone missing. The final leg of the train journey to Lisitchansk proved equally vexed, when the inebriated engine-driver insisted on breaking the journey, so that he could eat and drink with friends at a farmhouse located close to the railway line. Graham was thankful when he finally got to his destination where he was met by the familiar figure of Nikolai complete with horse and sleigh.

Graham arrived in Lisitchansk on Christmas Eve – the Orthodox Christmas took place thirteen days after the festival was celebrated in Western Europe in line with the Julian calendar – and the events of the following week gave him his first real insight into life in the provinces of the Tsarist Empire. The Lebedev family provided him with an old overcoat made of wolf-skin, to replace the one that had been stolen, so that he could join them in their sled trips around the countryside in festive visits to their neighbours. Christmas week passed in “an orgy of eating and drinking”,39 and Graham was suitably awe-struck by the capacity of the locals for alcohol, ruefully noting that he himself drank as much in ten days as he had in the rest of his life. On Boxing Day he joined the Lebedevs in a trip to a local manor house, where some of the visitors performed Leonid Andreev’s Life of Man, which had enjoyed enormous success a few years earlier when it was first produced at Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre. Numerous other trips took place to the homes of family friends and relatives who lived in far more humble surroundings. Graham was profoundly grateful for the kindness he received from the Lebedev family, which helped him orient himself in an unfamiliar land at a time when his mastery of the language was still quite rudimentary, but his original plan had always been to go to live in Moscow with Nikolai. The two men left Lisitchansk in late January and headed northwards by train to Russia’s ancient capital. They were met by an old friend of Nikolai’s, who led them to some squalid accommodation in a down-at-heel area near the Sretinka vorota. Graham now found himself a resident of the city which had for years served in his imagination as the living embodiment of Russia.

The city in which Graham arrived early in 1908 had changed a good deal over the previous few decades. The golden-domed cathedrals of the Kremlin still looked much as they had for hundreds of years, as did the ornate St Basil’s cathedral situated just outside the Kremlin walls. Some others parts of the city had also not greatly altered since being rebuilt in stone following the great fire of 1812.40 The city centre nevertheless boasted the usual appurtenances of modernity, ranging from electric light and trams to elaborate shop-window displays designed to entice the wealthier residents of the city. Dozens of new factories had also been built around the city over the previous twenty years. Moscow had in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries been idealised by many Russians as the real capital of Russia, embodying the Orthodox national spirit far more completely than soulless St Petersburg, the new capital built on the banks of the Neva River in the early eighteenth century as part of Peter the Great’s campaign to open a window to the west. Although this image of Moscow lasted into the early years of the twentieth century, by the time Graham arrived the city was firmly in the throes of massive change, its society and economy shaped as much by the demands of the new industrial and commercial economy as by older visions of the city as the spiritual heartland of Russia. There was certainly no shortage of those like Count Sergei Sheremetev, scion of one of the country’s wealthiest noble families, who bitterly lamented how the old churches and houses were being swept away to create a new Moscow.41 The city was becoming a curiously placeless place, suspended between the ancient and the modern, its traditional character wilting in the face of huge social and economic change. Graham was characteristically only ever inclined to see the contours of the world that was vanishing.

Neither Lebedev nor Graham had much money when they arrived in Moscow, and the next few weeks were spent in a succession of grimy lodgings, where they lived on an unappetising diet of black bread and fried pork. Nikolai rather bizarrely planned to earn his living as a professional card player, whilst Graham hoped to give English lessons, at least until he had established himself sufficiently as a journalist to rely on his pen for a living. Graham relished the liberation from his routine life in Britain, particularly as he began to have some minor successes in placing his articles with the London press (his first triumph was a review of a recent scholarly volume by Howard Kennard on The Russian Peasant). In the months that followed he contributed further pieces to the British press, including one to the Evening Standard on the Azev affair, which erupted when members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party discovered that one of their leading members was an agent provocateur planted by the tsarist secret police. He was, however, less successful in finding a publisher willing to take up his offer to provide translations of Dostoevsky.

The periodic arrival of money from Anderson Graham also helped to ease his son’s financial plight, although he moved lodgings a good deal in an effort to reduce his rent, earning his keep by teaching English to the children of wealthy merchants. He also took a number of live-in jobs as a tutor, but the experience was seldom satisfactory, since it placed too many limits on his freedom. Graham spent a good deal of time with Nikolai’s student friends, even though he had little sympathy for the atheism and radicalism espoused by most of them, spending evening after evening in endless discussions on topics ranging from politics to philosophy (Nikolai himself seems to have become a somewhat paranoid figure, convinced that his every movement was being monitored by the secret police). Still more time was spent skating and tobogganing in Sokolniki Park, one of the oldest in Moscow, which had been landscaped in 1900 to include a labyrinth of small alleyways and paths winding through the birch trees. Graham also attended performances at the Moscow Art Theatre, founded ten years earlier by Stanislavsky, which was already famous across Russia for its innovative staging of the work of playwrights such as Chekhov and Gorky.42 Together with Lebedev he visited many of the poorest areas of the city, including one trip to a doss-house with a single lavatory, in which men and women slept together on the floor in unbearably stuffy rooms where the windows were sealed by putty to keep out the cold.

Graham was repeatedly appalled by the poverty he encountered in Moscow, and although he later came to believe that the material deprivation of the Russian people was often combined with spiritual wealth, he found it difficult at first to reconcile himself to the presence of thousands of beggars who owned the streets like the “rats own the drains”.43 He also published a piece about Moscow beggars in The New Age, the literary journal edited by Alfred Orage, which played such a large role in promoting English modernism in the first two decades of the twentieth century.44 His new life in Moscow certainly broke down the “prison walls” of convention that he felt had confined him back in London.

Graham realised soon after his arrival in Moscow that “Russia was different from the Russia in books written by Russians”, acknowledging that Dostoevsky for all his brilliance “will never take you into a Russian Church, nor will he reveal the mystery of the ikons or the spell of Russian music”. The moment of epiphany seems to have come during a trip to the city of Sergiev Posad, forty miles outside Moscow, where Graham stood hour after hour mesmerized by the sound of chanting in the cathedral church. He recalled more than half a century later that it had been “a moment in personal history”, adding that “it is not an explanation of what led me to Russia for I knew nothing of the Church and its music when I was in London”.45

The Russian soul that Graham had fallen in love with now began to acquire a more distinctively spiritual form. The process was not unexpected, given that his longing for Russia had always been fuelled by a search for the numinous that escaped him in the workaday world of London, although it was not so much the Orthodox Church itself that Graham was falling in love with as a more elusive idea of Holy Russia. The country increasingly appeared to him as a vast sacred space where the fabric of daily life was shaped by the pervasive presence of the infinite. A few years later he wrote about the impact on him of the Easter celebrations he witnessed in 1909, shortly before leaving Moscow for a long trip to southern Russia, describing how the city again became the “city of the old time” and a “strange mystery and sacredness which must have enwrapped it in ancient days is felt again in the streets. The shops are all shut and dark, the churches are all open and bright [...] Even the air is infected with church odours and the multitudinous domes of purple and gold rest above the houses in enigmatical solemnity – they might be tents and pavilions of spirits from another world”.46 Graham’s fascination with Russia was increasingly bound up with his belief that daily life there retained a spiritual depth that had long vanished in the more advanced countries of Western Europe. The sense that he had developed when first reading Dostoevsky – that the Russian people retained an intuitive understanding of the meaning of life that had disappeared elsewhere – was taking a more definite religious colouring.

Although Graham was inclined in later life to emphasise that it was his attendance at Orthodox Church services that led him to the mystery of Holy Russia, he was from his youth also deeply interested in various forms of non-Christian mythological thought, a fascination with the exotic and esoteric that remained with him for the rest of his life. By the time he moved to Russia, he had developed a rather cumbersome personal philosophy that rested on an almost Platonic distinction between the “Little World” (his phrase) of everyday life and a more authentic world of values and beliefs. Graham articulated these ideas in a short book manuscript Ygdrasil, a name taken from the immense ash tree of Norse mythology, which he used as a core image for a series of meditations on spirituality and philosophy.47 He made no mention of the book in the published version of his memoirs, whilst in the draft of Part of the Wonderful Scene he dismissed it as “not very original”, one of many examples of Graham’s attempts in later life to dismiss his youthful interest in the occult. Although many of his ideas were disjointed, Graham sought in Ygdrasil to emphasise the organic nature of reality, in which there was a fundamental unity between sea and river, rock and earth, human and animal. He rejected a philosophy that relied on reason alone in favour of a kind of existentialist vision in which the spiritual state of the individual governed their ability to find meaning in the world around them. Graham criticised all formal doctrines and creeds as a source of “tyranny”, and instead presented Christ as a metaphorical figure who was “the archetype of man”, as well as the representative of “the vision of [God’s] purpose” encountered internally by each individual, which allowed them to develop their “own spiritual language”. The language and argument of Ygdrasil certainly leave a good deal to be desired from a scholarly point of view (much of what Graham had to say can be traced back to his reading of Carlyle on German Romantic philosophy). It does nevertheless illustrate the extent to which his idea of the sacred was rooted as much in a diffuse metaphysical instinct as in a more formal interest in Christianity in general or Orthodoxy in particular. Holy Russia was for Graham a place where the transcendent could be discerned within the confines of the finite world.

The manuscript of Ygdrasil is important for the light it casts on Graham’s intellectual and emotional preoccupations during the years he spent in Russia before the 1917 Revolution. He was even in old age forthright in his commitment to “idealism”, a term he never defined properly, instead using it to express his instinct that art and religion had the capacity to provide access to realms of meaning that could not be found in the material world. It will be seen later that the success of Graham’s early books rested in large part on his skill at providing his readers with illuminating sketches of the Russian landscape, both natural and social, which he encountered during his long tramps through the country. Some reviewers were indeed inclined to see his forays into philosophical and religious reverie as little more than an unnecessary distraction that detracted from his qualities as a travel writer. It was partly for this reason that Graham later toned down the esoteric style that characterised much of his earliest work. He nevertheless remained intellectually and emotionally rooted for many years in the world-view he sketched out in Ygdrasil. Graham the aspiring philosopher continued to view the “Little World” as a place that mattered since it provided evidence of the beyond. Graham the journalist and sketch-writer was by contrast enthralled by the scenes of everyday life. It was a dualism of matter and spirit that can be found even in the diaries and notebooks he kept as an old man of eighty.

One other important development took place in Graham’s life during his first year in Moscow, before he left the city to spend a year tramping through the Caucasus Mountains. In March 1909 he married Rosa Savory at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow.48 Rosa was fifteen years older than her husband, and worked as “a trainer of teachers” when they met, although little else is known about her early life. She was born in 1869 in West London, the daughter of a carpenter who ran a small business employing a number of apprentices, and moved with her parents when they emigrated to Russia in the 1880s (there was always a steady demand for English craftsmen in Russia). She became fluent in Russian and later cooperated with her husband in translating a number of short stories by Alexander Kuprin into English.49 The marriage between Stephen and Rosa lasted until Rosa’s death in 1956, when she was eighty six, although it had in effect ended more than quarter of a century earlier. Graham wrote in his autobiography that they had been “deeply in love, spell-bound by inspiration”, praising Rosa for being “content to play the part of Solveig to Peer Gynt”, adding that “when I was off on new adventures [she] remained in the background and kept a candle burning”.50 The artist Vernon Hill described many years later how struck he had been by the pair when he first met them in London in 1911, recalling how Graham “still had that patina of snow-light [...] in [his] eyes”, whilst behind him stood “a very quiet, nun-like lady with a tray of coffee, shy as silence” (for a sketch of Graham by Hill see Figure 1).51

Figure 1: Pen portrait of Stephen Graham by Vernon Hill, published in Stephen Graham, Changing Russia (London: John Lane, 1913), frontispiece.

The sense that there was something other-worldly about Rosa was commented on by other people as well. The Serbian Orthodox Bishop Nikolai Velimirović called her “the most Christian of all souls”.52 Eve Farson, wife of the American travel-writer Negley Farson, recalled on hearing of Rosa’s death that her old friend had “great sweetness and goodness about her always [...] I [was] very fond of her in the old days”.53

There are hints in some of Graham’s earlier relationships that he was often attracted to women who were a good deal older than himself. He certainly placed an enormous emphasis on marriage as a profound union that brought two people together in “body, spirit and intellect”. In one of the more abstruse passages of Ygdrasil, he articulated his belief that there was “no such thing as a man exclusively man or a woman exclusively woman”, adding that “male and female exist not only in animals but in trees and rocks”, a statement that reflected his conviction that “everything is organic and spiritually connected”.54 Rosa’s surviving diaries and letters suggest that she was well-placed to play the part allotted to her in the youthful Graham’s emotional pageant. She was a highly-intelligent woman, with a keen interest in eastern religion and West European art, who was willing and able to provide the refuge which Graham returned to time and again from his travels abroad.55 Graham’s description of his marriage to Rosa in Part of the Wonderful Scene was nevertheless a highly idealised one. The Spanish novelist Javier Marias noted in Dark Back of Time that Graham made very few references to his wife in his writings, even in the years after the First World War, when she abandoned the role of hearth-keeper to travel the world with him,56 making her a curiously anonymous presence in his books. Graham was perhaps too inclined to take the fidelity and loyalty of “Solveig” for granted, and their marriage faced growing difficulties in the mid 1920s, at a time when he was going through a personal crisis, and had begun to re-evaluate many of his earlier views about life.

It may say something about the relationship between Graham and Rosa that he was determined in the weeks before his marriage to leave Moscow as soon as the snows cleared “and the country lay open tempting me”.57 It is not obvious why he chose to live for a year in the Caucasus, a remote region that had only finally been absorbed into the Tsarist Empire during the middle of the nineteenth century, following the defeat of the resistance movement mounted by Moslem tribes under the leadership of Imam Shamil. Several epic journeys that he made on foot over the next few years took place in precisely such borderland areas, where Orthodox and Slavic Russia gave way to places inhabited by peoples of other religions and nationalities. Some of those living in the Caucasus were, like the Georgians, Christian by faith. Others were Muslim. The whole region was still widely perceived in Moscow and St Petersburg, even at the start of the twentieth century, as a wild frontier region where the writ of the imperial authorities barely reached beyond the main towns and cities.

Graham was warned on countless occasions before travelling to the Caucasus that he was taking his life in his hands. It is true that the rickety tsarist bureaucracy sometimes failed to operate effectively in areas far from the major metropolitan centres, but the dangers of travel in the region were probably exaggerated, particularly given that the institutions of civil and military rule were well-established in south Russia by the end of the nineteenth century. The image of the Caucasus as a remote and exotic region, a place of barbarism and intrigue, was nevertheless so deep-seated in the orientalist imagination of European Russians that it continued to shape perceptions of the area right down to 1917 and beyond. Graham himself was not averse to emphasising the dangerous character of the place. His first book, A Vagabond in the Caucasus (1911), detailed with relish the kidnappings and murders that took place in the area. He told how Nikolai and his friends tried to dissuade him from travelling to a region where robbery and violence were commonplace. He also regaled his readers with colourful stories he heard, including one which described how a party of well-to-do travellers were held by robbers and “despoiled of their clothing. The robbers covered them with guns and called on them to undress and throw all their possessions in a heap on the road or be shot. And they accordingly returned to town in Adam’s raiment”.58 Nor should all Graham’s stories be dismissed as bravado. The decision by a recently married young foreigner to tramp alone through such a remote area took a good deal of courage.

The genesis of Graham’s trip to the Caucasus was rooted in his hope that there might be a market for a book about the region. Hilaire Belloc’s recent Path to Rome, which detailed its author’s epic journey on foot from Britain to Italy, had attracted a good deal of public acclaim. The success of other books like W.H. Davies’s Autobiography of a Supertramp and William Locke’s Beloved Vagabond also suggested there was considerable popular interest in the figure of the walker and vagabond. Graham was a great admirer of Path to Rome, and determined early on that the book he planned to write about his sojourn in the Caucasus would, like Belloc’s book, be something more than a simple travelogue, instead containing reflections on a whole range of questions both religious and mundane. In a letter to his publisher John Lane, written whilst working on the final draft of Vagabond, Graham suggested that the book should have a sub-title of ‘The Story of an Individual who Escaped from England to Russia’.59 In another letter he emphasised that the story he wanted to tell was “the story of my new life”, as well as “a story of new aspects and new possibilities in Russian life”, with the result that his approach would “be new in English ears”.60 Graham was determined not simply to regale his readers with descriptions of town and countryside, but rather to provide them with a rich mixture of anecdotes and observations, as well as offering a kind of confessional narrative about how he had been shaped by his experiences on the road. This style was to become a hallmark of the many travel books he wrote over the next few years. The accounts Graham wrote of his various journeys, including his first trip to the Caucasus in 1909-10, were typically highly impressionistic narratives – a jumble of reportage and introspection – which together formed a kind of picaresque autobiography containing his reflections on all he had thought and witnessed.

Figure 2: Photograph taken by Stephen Graham in the Terek Gorge of two Ingush women collecting water, published in Stephen Graham, A Vagabond in the Caucasus (London, John Lane, 1911), p. 140.

After travelling south in the spring of 1909, Graham arrived at the town of Vladikavkaz, founded during the reign of Catherine the Great as a fort to strengthen Russia’s military presence in the region. He came well-prepared for his travels, complete with a sleeping bag and waterproof blanket, and a revolver to defend himself against the bandits whom anxious friends assured him he would meet by the score in his travels. Vladikavkaz was in many ways a thoroughly modern town, complete with hotels and trams, but Graham quickly realised that he was a long way from the heartland of European Russia. Most of the local population was made up of ethnic Russians and Georgians, but there were also significant minorities of people Graham referred to as Ossetines, Tatars, Persians and Ingooshi, reflecting the extent to which the whole Caucasus region represented a meeting place of different religions and ethnicities.

It was still too cold to sleep rough when Graham arrived in Vladikavkaz, so he booked into a local hotel, making occasional forays on foot to survey the neighbouring countryside. When he finally set out on his first long tramp, at the end of April, he deliberately avoided the well-engineered military roads in favour of rough tracks that would take him deep into the wilderness. He also wore Russian peasant dress in an effort to blend into the background and make it easier to talk to those he met along the way. Although Graham was not by his own estimation “rich prey for a robber”, he slept at night in caves, or hidden behind rocks where he was unlikely to attract the attention of any passing bandits. The brooding threat of violence always seemed to be present, even in places like the remote Daria Gorge, where the mountain-sides were covered in a mantle of green fir trees and the summits capped by snow. It was here, in these idyllic surroundings, that Graham first saw the grim ruins of the castle of the Georgian Queen Tamara, whose twelfth-century reign was widely remembered in local folk-lore as a time of great bloodshed, even though she was later canonised as a saint by the Orthodox Church. The juxtaposition of stories of violence with scenes of great natural beauty was indeed a feature of Vagabond in the Caucasus. In between telling readers how “unfortunate victims” of Tamara’s reign were thrown down the rocks “into the foaming river”, he jotted down impressions of the animals and plants that crossed his path, describing how he walked through meadows filled with flowers and along ditches lined by “thistles, barberry, teasle, hollyhock and mallow”.61

After a few weeks of sleeping rough, Graham rented two rooms from a Baptist pastor who combined his duties as minister with those of miller (it seems that Rosa later joined her husband there at least for a time). He bought a mattress and various household utensils, carefully writing down the cost in his notebook, and paid a local Russian woman to do his cooking. Graham feared that the growth of non-Orthodox sects in Russia signalled a decline in the hold of the Orthodox Church on the emotions of the Russian people, but he was full of admiration for the minister himself. He attended one of the pastor’s services at the local chapel, a “little defiant, heterodox place so brave in its denial and protest”, where the sermon was “direct” and the congregation sang “with a will and kept in tune”.62 Graham also took the opportunity to talk with neighbours who were practising Moslems, including one Ali Pasha, whom he first saw on a Saturday evening sitting in his porch drinking “crimson tea, coloured by an infusion of cranberry syrup”. Ali was a Persian – yet more evidence of the rich ethnic mosaic that characterised the population between the Black and Caspian seas – and he wore a gorgeous costume of “slate-blue cloak, golden stockings and loose slippers”. Graham later described his neighbour as “a noble man, by far the most refined and courteous of the dwellers at the mill”. He went on to add that “I might almost add, though it would sound paradoxical, he was the most Christian. Nowadays surely all men are Christian, even Mahommedans, Buddhists and Confucians. It is only the name that they lack, the same religion is in all of them”.63 His words were telling. For all his burgeoning love of the Orthodox Church, Graham was as ever convinced that true religion was a matter of spirituality rather than doctrine, a belief he was to retain to a greater or lesser extent for the rest of his life.

Graham’s wanderings attracted a good deal of interest from those he met on the road. There were few Britons in the southern provinces of the tsarist empire, at least outside major towns like Baku, where British engineers were playing a significant role in developing the Caspian oil wells. One Ingush speaker he met on the road refused to believe that Graham was from Britain on the grounds that all “the English travelled in flying machines”.64 In another Ingush village he was invited to a dinner of lamb-cutlet and millet bread by one of the elders, who was convinced that the English were a tribe who lived somewhere away to the north-west of the valley. Graham predictably fell foul of the local authorities on a number of occasions. The area through which he tramped had been one of the main settings of the Great Game, and British intelligence agents operated there well into the twentieth century, and perhaps even in the years following the 1907 Anglo-Russian agreement that was meant to put an end to such activities.65 Graham’s passport may have made him an object of suspicion, particularly to the local military authorities, for tension was running high in 1909 between London and St Petersburg over their respective spheres of influence in nearby Persia. When he was arrested, though, it was not by a soldier or policeman, but rather by a “hillman” near the town of Lisri in what is now North Ossetia, who handed him over to the local ataman when his prisoner refused to pay a bribe for his release. A bizarre few days followed. Graham was released into the care of a local Georgian priest, with whom he had interesting discussions about religion, before being taken to another village ten miles away, where he was left for a time to his own devices. A few days later, after a period of desultory captivity in a series of local towns, he was taken to Vladikavkaz where he was released by the Chief of Police. Graham’s account of his arrest may have been rather highly-coloured, and he certainly came to no great harm during his brief detention in a verminous prison cell, complete with “rotten floors and no glass in the windows”, but it captured the chaos that was a common feature of tsarist rule in the more remote reaches of the Russian Empire.

The discursive character of Graham’s writing makes it difficult to reconstruct his itinerary with much precision (the diary he kept on the trip has not survived). He certainly ranged widely around the western part of the Caucasus region, including at least two crossings of the high mountain ranges, when he “climbed into winter” from the valleys below, spending nights in a koutan with shepherds tending their flocks in the high passes. The mill that he used as a basis for his tramps was located on the Terek river, probably close to Vladikavkaz, although its exact location is unclear. He spent a good deal of time in the area north of Georgia, usually travelling within a hundred miles or so of Vladikavkaz itself. He does not seem to have spent much time in the areas closer to the Caspian Sea.

The draft of Vagabond in the Caucasus that Graham sent to John Lane in 1910 set down a number of themes that were to define his writing about Russia right down to the 1917 Revolution. The first was the whole idea of Holy Russia, although this was not a phrase that occurred in Vagabond itself, perhaps because so much of the book recounted Graham’s travels in a region that was neither uniformly Russian nor Orthodox. Vagabond also reflected its author’s sense that the natural world could serve as a pointer to something more fundamental and important. There was something distinctly pantheistic about Graham’s description of nights spent in the mountains, when he felt as if he “had entered into a new world and come into communion with Nature in a way as yet unknown”,66 an idea he was to develop more fully two years later in his third book A Tramp’s Sketches. A third theme that ran through Vagabond was Graham’s conviction that tramping provided a way of gaining insights into realities that eluded those who lived more confined lives within the city. Graham recalled in Vagabond how in one remote area:

I met a noble tramp, an Eden tramp. He came upon me at dawn with a wood smile on his old face. He was one of the society of tramps; he knew all Russia, its places and peoples, and he called himself Mr Adam. Why did he adopt that name, why had he thrown away the other name? These were questions he was not in a hurry to answer. They involved a story. Such a story! It sounded in my ears like a secret melody of the world.67

There was in fact something of a paradox at the heart of Graham’s treatment both of the natural world and the whole idea of tramping. Although over the next few years he was to become increasingly in thrall to the ideal of Holy Russia, precisely because he believed that the country had maintained a sense of the need for a shared spiritual community, he was also deeply intrigued by the figures of the tramp and the pilgrim, wanderers across the landscape who found themselves strangers in the places through which they passed. Nor could Graham’s belief that nature throbbed with a set of meanings, capable of providing the individual with a sense of consolation and identity, be easily reconciled with his lingering desire to emphasise the importance of religion in providing a collective context to personal experience. The young Stephen Graham – and perhaps the older one too – was always conscious of a tension between the desire to belong and the desire to escape. It is of course a familiar dilemma for the natural Romantic, whose yearning for the settled securities of the past has been shaped by a modern consciousness, itself characterised by a powerful sense of autonomy and individuality.

The epilogue of Vagabond concluded with a description of its author’s quest, in which his wanderings through the Caucasus became an expression of his pursuit of something more profound, a spiritual journey in search of truths that had eluded him in his earlier life:

A youth steps forward on the road and a horizon goes forward. Sometimes slowly the horizon moves, sometimes in leaps and bounds. Slowly while mountains are approached, or when cities and markets crowd the skies to heaven, but suddenly and instantaneously when summits are achieved or when the outskirts dust of town or fair is passed. One day, at a highest point on that road of his, a view will be disclosed and lie before him – the furthest and most magical glance into the Future. Away, away in the far-distant grey will lie his newest and last horizon, in a place more fantastic and mystical than the dissolving city, which the eye builds out of sunset clouds.

Graham’s experiences on the road – and his reflections on the landscapes he saw and the people he met – changed “the youth” as he began to develop a clearer insight into the elusive object he sought. “He awakened, or rather he and himself awakened, a self below himself had awakened, as if the soul had drawn curtains from two windows after a long custom of drawing from only one. A new being waking, blinked uneasily to find itself in the swing and motion of life”.68 The tone of Graham’s epilogue contrasted sharply with much of what had gone before, perhaps because it was written later than the earlier chapters, which were often taken almost verbatim from articles he had sent to Country Life and the Pall Mall Gazette whilst still on the road. It was instead inspired by the same sentiments that had run through Ygdrasil. Graham’s tramp through the Caucasus was fuelled, at least in part, by a search for transcendence. He was a pilgrim inspired by a search for new insights into his own soul. Graham’s Russia was already well under way to becoming less a place of geography and history, and more a place where a mythologized religion and culture provided opportunities for developing a new understanding of life, richer than the one that prevailed in the countries of the commercialised west he had left behind.

In the late spring of 1910 “a wave of intense longing to see England” led Graham back home to Britain, and in June he once again found himself walking through the streets of central London, cutting a curious figure in his exotic “shabby soft black hat” and “furry overcoat” (it was presumably not a warm spring in London that year). He was also brought back to Britain by the need to develop new contacts with journalists and publishers. The visit was only brief. Graham quickly realised that his heart still remained in Russia – apparently Rosa did too at this stage – and he returned to the country once more at the start of August.

I went to Russia to see the world, to see new life, to breathe in new life. In truth it was like escaping from a prison, and now when I take a walk in London streets it seems as if I am taking the regulation exercise in a prison yard. And the dirty rags of London sky look like a tramp’s washing spread on the roofs to dry. Still, it is given that we live even in prisons and under such skies for certain purposes.69

Graham was already planning a late summer tramp from Archangel in the far north of Russia down to Moscow. The possibility of such a trip was first suggested to him in Vladikavkaz by a friend, Vera Merkurieva, an aspiring poet who was shortly to begin publishing verse in the journal Vestnik Teosofy (Herald of Theosophy). She subsequently moved to Moscow, where she became a figure of some note, publishing work in the broad tradition of the Russian Symbolist movement.70 Merkurieva introduced Graham to the work of some major contemporary Russian writers, including Andrei Bely and Alexander Blok, as well as pointing out that the Caucasus were, for all its stark beauty, a strange place for a foreigner to seek the real Russia. She therefore suggested that he travel north to live among Russians who “had not interbred with the Tatars”.71

Graham’s tramp from Archangel to Moscow cannot have taken more than six weeks or so, but its brevity would not have been apparent to readers of Undiscovered Russia, the book he published about his experiences (extracts from which first appeared in Country Life and St James’ Gazette). Graham was already en route to becoming such a productive writer that his sheer output often had the effect of exaggerating the timescale of the events he described, an impression heightened by his penchant for re-packaging material so that books and articles which appeared to be about one particular journey contained material collected at different times and in different places. Undiscovered Russia detailed its author’s impressions of his journey southwards from Archangel, which followed a circuitous route, going in an easterly arc, which at one point took him as far as Vetluga, before an outbreak of cholera in the district forced him back west again. Graham was not altogether successful at hiding the thinness of his experiences, which perhaps accounts for the fact that Undiscovered Russia was less of a detailed travel book than Vagabond in the Caucasus, instead containing more general reflections on some of the themes that had emerged in his first book. The most important of these was the contrast between Holy Russia and the spiritually barren societies of the West.

The frontispiece of Undiscovered Russia reproduced the artist Michael Nesterov’s picture “Holy Russia”, which depicted a group of pilgrims seeking spiritual healing from Christ, in a landscape that fused together a typically Russian background of snow and fir trees with more celestial elements designed to suggest the immanence of the divine presence. Nesterov had for many years toured the churches and monasteries of north Russia in search of artistic inspiration, painting numerous pictures characterised by a distinctive aura of mysticism and spirituality, and in the early twentieth century he became an important figure in the Mir iskustva (World of Art) movement. Graham first met him in Moscow, at a meeting of the Religious-Philosophical Society, and was immediately struck by the artist’s “supremely calm face” which made him look “like a statue”.72 Graham was fascinated by Nesterov’s work, which he believed captured a complex and profound truth about Russia’s spiritual identity, and he planned at one time to write a biography of the artist.73 He was determined to use Undiscovered Russia to persuade his British readers that Russia was not, as many of them thought, the home of “bomb-throwers” and “intolerable tyranny”, but rather a place where the people were “obediently religious, seriously respectful to their elders, true to the soil they plough, content with the old implements of culture, not using machinery or machine-made things, but able themselves to fashion out of the pine all that they need”. The Russia that Graham wanted to convey was a place where social life was still rooted in the traditional rituals of an agricultural economy, inhabited by people “true to the soil [and] mystically superstitious by reason of their unexplained mystery”.74

Whilst Graham was still in the Caucasus, Vera Merkurieva had provided him with an introduction to the artist Vasily Perepletchikov, best-known at the time for his landscapes of the Russian north, painted in a style that owed a good deal to the French impressionist movement that was immensely popular in Russia at this time. The two men first met in Archangel when it was still illuminated by the eerie half-light of the white nights. The city had been a major port hundreds of years before Peter the Great conceived of St Petersburg, and Graham had long wanted to visit the “remote town”, even though its commercial importance had for two centuries been eclipsed by its new neighbour far to the south. He was at first disappointed by what he found, ruefully noting that “it is always a little saddening to exchange a dream for a reality”,75 but one evening, sitting in the twilight on a hill above the city, he sensed “a strange mystery […] One felt one’s self in a light of peace and calm, as in the depths of some holy mystery, perhaps the vision of Holy Russia; it was the light of a vision before the eyes, flooding and transfiguring the darkness, the light of many haloes, dream daylight”.76

Graham was fascinated by the hordes of pilgrims heading towards the harbour to take a boat for the island monastery of Solovetsky, many of whom had walked a thousand miles to get to Archangel, begging as they went, in order to make the trip to one of Russia’s “most holy shrines”.77 It is surprising that he did not join them, evidence perhaps of the limited time available to him, since he was determined to reach Moscow by the middle of September. Graham nevertheless spent a few days in the town, travelling on a steamer down the river to the run-down suburb of Salombola. He also had a meeting with the Vice-Governor, who gave him a letter of recommendation and numerous pamphlets about the areas he planned to tramp through. The following day, Graham and Perepletchikov left Archangel together, since the artist planned to spend some time painting the countryside to the south of the city, and they departed by rowing boat down the northern Dvina river. The two men set off in the evening, but the light of the northern summer night allowed them to navigate easily amongst the barges that littered the river, and it was only in the early hours of the morning that they tied up at a landing stage at one of the villages scattered along the riverside.

Graham was fascinated by the forests and lakes of the north, along with the people who lived there, many of whom still lived in native communities where the Russian language was almost unknown. He told readers of Undiscovered Russia how “the Baltic Slavs still live by the streams and the lakes, and although Christianity has found them, they have cherished paganism along with it”.78 Graham as usual had his camera with him, and amongst the photographs that appeared in the book were two of ‘Aborigines of North Russia’, taken by natural light at midnight, which showed groups of peasants posed in front of their wooden huts in the traditional dress of the region.

Figure 3: Photograph taken by Stephen Graham at midnight of the inhabitants of a village near Archangel, published in Stephen Graham, Undiscovered Russia (London: John Lane, 1912), p. 24.

Another photograph showed ‘A Man of the Woods Reputed to be a Magician’, whilst a third provided a portrait of two forest-dwellers, the hunter Shangin and his companion Darya, standing above the body of a bear they had shot in the woods. As Graham moved southwards, the Samoyede faces and shamanic echoes of the people he met gradually gave way to the more familiar features and rituals of European Russia. He was as ever convinced that the spirituality of the Russian peasantry permeated every aspect of their life.79 Because the weather was unseasonably wet and cold, Graham often sought shelter in peasant villages, and was repeatedly struck by the reverence given towards the household icons that showed how for “the Russian [...] God is not locked up in the church”. In Undiscovered Russia he took issue with foreign travellers who dismissed peasant religion as a form of superstition,80 arguing that it instead represented a genuine reverence and a desire to “give the Infinite a name”. Although Graham freely acknowledged that many priests were drunks, who neglected the needs of their congregation, he was still captivated by the “wonderful” services of the Orthodox Church. He also spoke warmly of the hospitality he received in the monasteries where he sought shelter. At the Cathedral of the Assumption in Ustiug, he attended a service of blessing for one of the wonder-working icons, marvelling at the strength of the faith of the congregation as they surged forward for a blessing. Graham himself joined the procession, and went up to receive the blessing of the priest who stood motionless in front of the altar, looking “like a figure that had just stepped out of an Ikon”.81

Even so dedicated a devotee of Holy Russia as Graham could not altogether ignore the signs of social and political change that were taking place in the Tsarist Empire during the early years of the twentieth century. In the course of his journey southwards, he came across numerous young Russians who had been sentenced to internal exile for their involvement in radical political activity, even though the reforms set in motion by the 1905 Revolution had introduced a more liberal political atmosphere. In one small town in the far north he met a group of political exiles who, although cleared of any crimes in the courts, had been banished on the grounds that they were “not innocent” of dabbling in “terrorism and propagandism”.82 Whilst they were given a small grant by the Government, and permitted to wander a few miles from town, the young radicals were under almost constant supervision by the local police. In another town he met a second group of administrative exiles – “much the bitterest men and women I had ever met in Russia” – and as Graham sat with them he could not help reflecting that their anger would one day drive them to become involved “in acts of assassination and violence”.83

The young radicals Graham met spoke bitterly of the British Government’s refusal to take up the cause of the victims of tsarist repression. They also refused to accept his suggestion that the dreary lives faced by industrial workers and office clerks in cities like London and Manchester were, in their own way, as bad as anything faced by Russian workers and peasants. Graham was ready enough to acknowledge the injustice imposed by administrative exile, but he steadfastly refused to accept that political violence could ever be acceptable, on the grounds that “when once murder has come to the reinforcement of a cause, the question of the inherent goodness of that cause is forced into the background”.84 By the time he completed the final draft of Undiscovered Russia, in the spring of 1911, Graham made no secret of his belief that Russia’s well-being depended on strengthening “the hands of the Tsar and of all reactionaries”.85 Although he acknowledged that “It is sad to think of […] young men and women executed or exiled”, he feared that the triumph of the radical movement would simply impoverish the Russian nation spiritually, and lead the country down a path of development that was alien to all that was best in its traditions and culture. Graham’s increasingly conservative outlook on life was already starting to become clear.

One of the most memorable meetings Graham had during his journey from Archangel to Moscow took place at a large estate near the village of Gagarina, where he sought refuge when the appalling summer weather forced him to abandon his original plan to head eastwards towards Nizhni Novgorod. The house where he spent the night was well-furnished, and his hostess’s study boasted a carpet and English fireplace, complete with an array of comfortable armchairs and divans. Madame Odintsev spoke excellent English and proved to be formidably well-read. She was an ardent follower of the ideas put forward by Madame Blavatsky, the doyenne of the Theosophical movement, which caused such a stir across Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with its claim that all religions were merely one aspect of a single true faith whose secrets had been preserved in the remote monasteries of the Himalayas.86 The two spoke at length about modern Russian culture, including the symbolist poetry of Alexander Blok and the philosophical writings of Viacheslav Ivanov, which led them to a speculative discussion about the nature of “the mystic life”. Mme Odinstsev suggested that her Theosophy consisted above all in learning to distinguish between the transient and the permanent, insisting that true love consisted of love for what was eternal rather than mere outward form, a position that echoed the one sketched out a few years earlier in Ygdrasil by Graham himself. The two then became engaged in a good-tempered but “barren argument” about the extent to which God was knowable. Although they never came to an agreement, Graham left the house in his own words as “a mystic perhaps just too self-conscious”, yet assenting “eagerly” to his hostess’s view that “all life is symbolism, our actions are all rites, our worlds are all mysteries”.87 There was, as ever, something about the young Graham’s views that smacked of the esoteric. The notion that the physical world represented a mere expression or emanation of some deeper reality remained firmly entrenched as a central feature of his personal philosophy.

Graham told his publisher in September 1910, following his arrival in Moscow, that he had “spent the whole of the summer in the North, tramping south from Archangel in the guise of a pilgrim or a tramp, receiving each night the hospitality and the blessing of the peasants […] I have had a life that might be thought very beautiful”. Businesslike as ever, he also assured John Lane that after collecting some further material, he would soon be in a position to write “the newest book on Russia”.88 The book he referred to was, of course, Undiscovered Russia, which Graham eventually concluded with a passionate declaration that the country he had fallen in love with remained a place where the foreigner could “smooth out a ruffled mind and look upon the beauty of life”.89 He was also convinced that Russia had a vital role to play in the world at a time when so much of Europe and North America was plunged in a headlong rush for industrialisation:

Sometimes it seems to me that in any man lives all mankind, and that every man going to and fro upon the earth represents a self within myself, and that because each other man is living his peculiar life I can live mine freely. I live my little life and give my little contribution to the grand harmony, in the faith that all other people are fulfilling their parts and making their due contributions. And England also lives its peculiar life in the faith that other nations are living their peculiar lives. England needs Russia living on the soil in holiness and simplicity, needs it living so, as a man needs a woman, for the food she gives him and the prayers she offers.90

By the time Graham arrived in Moscow, at the end of his trek from the north, Russia had become for him something more than a source of potential personal epiphany. It was also a place that could provide a living model for a world that had become too captivated by an overly materialistic conception of progress. Graham had, as a young man in London, dreamed of escaping to a place where he could find a sense of solace and harmony that eluded him at home. After two or three years in Russia, he had become convinced that the “Somewhere-Out-Beyond” he had discovered possessed a wisdom which, although rooted in the particularities of time and place, was capable of offering some kind of universal truth to the world. He spent much of the next few years struggling to build on his insights in a series of books and articles that were designed to expand his audience and shape British views of Russia on the eve of the First World War.

1 All quotations in this paragraph unless stated otherwise are from Stephen Graham, Part of the Wonderful Scene (London: Collins, 1964).

2 Graham Papers (Harry Ransom Center henceforth HRC), Works file, Part of the Wonderful Scene (autograph version). The pagination of the autograph version is unreliable and is therefore not included in the references. Note, too, the existence of a typescript version of Part of the Wonderful Scene in the same Works file which differs significantly both from the first handwritten draft and the final published version. For Graham’s youthful notes on lepidoptery, see Graham Papers (Florida State University, Strozier Library, henceforth FSU), Box 578, 31.

3 On the Scottish press at this time, see Stephen Koss, The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain (London: Hamilton, 1981), p. 207.

4 W.E. Henley, Views and Reviews (London: David Nutt, 1890), 32. On Henley see Kennedy Williamson, W.E. Henley: A Memoir (London: Harold Shaylor, 1930). See, too, Damian Atkinson (ed.), The Selected Letters of W.E. Henley (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000).

5 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 11.

6 Ibid, p. 9.

7 Graham Papers (FSU), Box 580, 13c (‘From the Days of My Youth’).

8 P. Anderson Graham, The Rural Exodus (London: Methuen, 1892), p. 208.

9 P. Anderson Graham, All the Year with Nature (London: Smith and Elden, 1893), p. 181.

10 P. Anderson Graham, Nature in Books (London: Methuen, 1891), p. x.

11 Ibid, p. 191.

12 Anderson Graham was, however, a sharp critic of those who opposed country sports. See P. Anderson Graham, ‘The Abuse of Kindness’, National Observer, 30 March 1895.

13 P. Anderson Graham, Country Pastimes for Boys (London: Longmans, 1897).

14 Stephen Graham, Under-London (London: Macmillan, 1923).

15 On Country Life (including some comments on Anderson Graham) see Sir Roy Strong, Country Life, 1897-1997: An English Arcadia (London: Country Life Books, 1997).

16 For a valuable international perspective on the Arts and Crafts Movement, see Rosalind Blakesley, The Arts and Crafts Movement (London: Phaidon, 2006).

17 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (autograph).

18 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 13.

19 For further details on the reception of Dostoevsky in Britain, see Helen Muchnic, Dostoevsky’s English Reputation, 1881-1936 (New York: Octagon Books, 1969); William Leatherbarrow (ed.), Dostoevskii and Britain (Oxford: Berg, 1995).

20 On the Great Game see Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (London: John Murray, 2006). For a dated but useful analysis of the origins of Russophobia see John Howes Gleason, The Genesis of Russophobia in Great Britain (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1950).

21 See, for example, Barry Hollingsworth, ‘The Society of Friends of Russian Freedom: English Liberals and Russian Socialists, 1890-1917’, Oxford Slavonic Papers, 3 (1970), pp. 45-64.

22 Introduction by H.G. Wells to Denis Garston, Friendly Russia (London: Fisher Unwin, 1915), pp. 9-10.

23 W.R.S. Ralston, Krilof and his Fables (London: Strahan, 1869).

24 On Turgenev’s links with Oxford see J.S.G. Simmons, ‘Turgenev and Oxford’, in Ivan Turgenev and Britain, ed. by Patrick Waddington (Oxford: Berg, 1995), pp. 208-12. See, too the relevant pages of M. Kizilov, ‘Russkie v Oksforde: kratkii obzor istorii’, in Russkoe prisutstvie v Britanii, ed. by N.V. Makarova and O.A. Morgunova (Moscow: Sovremennaia ekonomika i pravo, 2009), pp. 101-16.

25 For a biography of Constance Garnett, who played a vital role in bringing translations of the Russian classics to an English-language audience, see Richard Garnett, Constance Garnett: An Heroic Life (London: Faber and Faber, 2009).

26 On Newmarch, see Philip Ross Bullock, Rosa Newmarch and Russian Music in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009).

27 See, for example, Havelock Ellis, ‘The Genius of Russia’, Contemporary Review, 80 (1901), pp. 419-33.

28 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 14.

29 Stephen Graham, A Vagabond in the Caucasus with Some Notes of his Experiences Among the Russians (London: John Lane, 1911), p. 4, version available at http://archive.org/details/cu31924028754822.

30 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 11. On Graham’s youthful religiosity see Graham Papers (FSU), Box 580, 13c (‘In the Days of my Youth’).

31 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (typescript), p. 2.

32 Daily Express, 3 March 1930 (Graham article headed ‘First You Must Live’).

33 Graham, Vagabond, p. 7.

34 Ibid, p. 8.

35 Graham, Wonderful Scene (autograph).

36 Graham, Vagabond, p. 10.

37 Ibid, p. 17. Graham used this incident as the basis of a short story, ‘The Shadow’, which appeared in Stephen Graham, Quest of the Face (London: Macmillan, 1918), pp. 231-52, version available at http://archive.org/details/questofface00grah.

38 Graham, Vagabond, pp. 15-16.

39 Ibid, p. 29.

40 For a contemporary guide to the city see the relevant pages of Karl Baedeker, Russia: A Handbook for Travellers (London, 1914).

41 Rachel Polonsky, Molotov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey in Russian History (London: Faber and Faber, 2010), pp. 30-31.

42 On the Moscow Art Theatre, see Nick Worral, The Moscow Art Theatre (London: Routledge, 1996).

43 Graham, Vagabond, p. 74.

44 The New Age, 2, 18 (1908), pp. 358-59. On Orage and The New Age see Wallace Martin, The New Age under Orage (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967); Philip Mairet, A.R. Orage: A Memoir (London: J.M. Dent, 1936).

45 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (autograph).

46 Graham, Vagabond, pp. 111-12.

47 The following quotations are all taken from Graham Papers (HRC), Works file, Ygdrasil.

48 Regimental Museum of Guards (Service Record of Stephen Graham).

49 A.I. Kuprin, A Slav Soul and Other Stories, trans. Stephen and Rosa Graham (London: Constable, 1916).

50 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 66.

51 Graham Papers (HRC), Letters file, Hill to Graham, 25 October 1964.

52 Ibid, Velimirović to Graham, 10 August 1921.

53 Ibid, Eve Farson to Graham, 19 July 1956.

54 All quotations from Ygdrasil except “everything is organic and spiritually connected” which can be found in Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (autograph).

55 Fragments from Rosa’s diaries and journals, giving an insight into her views, can be found in Bradford University Library Special Collections, Archives of the New Atlantis Foundation, 1/6/2/12 Book 4.

56 Javier Marias, Dark Back of Time (London: Vintage, 2004), p. 202.

57 Graham, Vagabond, p. 101.

58 Ibid, p. 131.

59 John Lane papers (HRC), Box 17, Folder 4, Graham to Lane, 31 May 1910.

60 Ibid, Graham to Lane, 14 June 1910.

61 Graham, Vagabond, p. 129.

62 Ibid, pp. 237-38.

63 Ibid, pp. 252-53.

64 Ibid, p. 141.

65 On this theme see Michael Hughes, ‘Diplomacy or Drudgery? British Consuls in Russia during the Early Twentieth Century’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, 6, 1 (1995), pp. 76-95.

66 Graham, Vagabond, p. 134.

67 Ibid, p. 224.

68 Ibid, pp. 288-89, p. 291.

69 Ibid, p. 287.

70 Vera Merkurieva, Tshcheta: sobranie stikhotvoretii (Moscow: Vodolei Publishers, 2007).

71 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 29.

72 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (typescript), p. 24.

73 On Nesterov, see Abbott Gleason, ‘Russkii inok: The Spiritual Landscape of Mikhail Nesterov’, Cultural Geographies, 7, 3 (2000), pp. 299-312. For notes relating to the proposed biography, see Graham Papers (FSU), Box 576, 19 (Biographical Notes of M.V. Nesterov). Nesterov for his part seems to have been willing to cooperate in the proposed biography. See M.V. Nesterov, Pis’ma (Leningrad: Iskusstvo, 1988), Letter 432.

74 Stephen Graham, Undiscovered Russia (London, 1912), p. ix, version available at http://archive.org/details/undiscoveredruss00grahrich.

75 Ibid, p. 12.

76 Ibid, p. 14.

77 For a history of the monastery and the island on which it is situated see Roy R. Robson, Solovki: The Story of Russia Told Through its Most Remarkable Islands (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

78 Graham, Undiscovered Russia, p. 25.

79 Ibid, p. 232.

80 For a vigorous critique of Russian Orthodoxy from a contemporary Protestant standpoint see R.S. Latimer, Under Three Tsars (London: Morgan and Scott, 1907).

81 Graham, Undiscovered Russia, p. 220.

82 Ibid, p. 57.

83 Ibid, p. 177.

84 Ibid, p. 58.

85 Ibid, p. 207.

86 Amongst Blavatsky’s writings see Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine: the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1891). For a useful analysis of theosophy within the western esoteric tradition see Antoine Faivre, Accès de l’ésotérisme occidental (Paris: Gallimard, 1986). On theosophy in Russia during Graham’s time see the memoir by E.F. Pisareva, The Light of the Russian Soul (Wheaton, IL: Quest, 2008). For a more general discussion of the occult in Russia, see Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (ed.), The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), esp. the chapter by Maria Carlson, ‘Fashionable Occultism’, pp. 135-52.

87 Graham, Undiscovered Russia, pp. 289-91.

88 John Lane Papers (HRC), Box 17, Folder 4, Graham to Lane, 18 September 1910.

89 Graham, Undiscovered Russia, p. 327.

90 Ibid, p. 328.

http://dx.doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0040.01