Tuesday, January 15, 2019

No Relation to Ryan Gosling: Christopher Bush Through the Ages

Images of some Golden Age detective writers are as elusive as those of their (often sadly forgotten) sleuths.  However, there actually are quite a few images out there of Christoper Bush, whose Ludovic Travers detective saga is currently being reprinted by Dean Street Press.  (Books #31-40 will be released in May.)

Below I've arranged some of these images chronologically.  Christopher Bush was born on Christmas day in 1885 and died in 1973, publishing his first Ludo Travers detective novel in 1926, when he was forty, and his last in 1968, when he was 82 years old.  Only a few of his prewar colleagues from England's Detection Club--Agatha Christie, Gladys Mitchell, John Dickson Carr, Michael Innes and Anthony Gilbert come to  mind--outlasted him as active mystery authors, Christie, Carr and Gilbert by only as few years.

Maybe I'm alone in detecting a resemblance to Ryan Gosling in the earlier Christopher Bush pics, particularly the that second one.  (I don't see it in the later ones at all.)  What think you, Gosling stanners?  I think it's the eyes more than anything else.  Bush was rather the ladies man in younger days, with some, erm, sticky entanglements, one of them producing a (presumably out-of-wedlock) son, noted composer Geoffrey Bush.  The first Bush photo dates from Egypt, where Bush served in the Great War, in 1919; in the others I am roughly guessing his age by decade.

Bush at age 33

Bush in his forties

Bush in his fifties

Bush in his sixties

Bush in his early seventies


  1. Who was Geoffrey Bush's mother? As he went to Lancing - a public school [i.e., a private boarding school, with high fees] - and Oxford, someone - presumably Christopher Bush - supported him pretty well in his youth.
    Incidentally, the only entries for Christopher Bush on Wikipedia are in French and German!

    1. His mother Winifred Chart must have been remarkable person in her own right, because Bush never acknowledged his Geoffrey or seemingly supported him. Of course Bush was a very talented person. One of his Travers books suggests to me that he may even have doubted his paternity. He doesn't seem to have behaved very well over the matter, but then we don't have any real primary material about it.

      Winifred claimed to Geoffrey that they had been married, but seeing as how Bush was already married to Ella Pinner it doesn't seem a credible claim, unless he committed bigamy, which seems unlikely. The whole circumstance of their involvement suggests illegitimacy.

    2. It would be nice to think Bush at least financially supported Geoffrey, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of that. If he did it must have been on condition that they never have anything to do with each other. Geoffrey had to find out details about him on his own. I wrote more on the relationship in Dead Man's Music. One of the interesting things is that the two, without knowing each other, shared a love for both classical music and detective fiction. It makes you wonder about inherited traits.

    3. One possibility is that Winifred got pregnant, then Bush told her he was already married. I hope not, I hope Bush was more up front with her than he was with the military. When Ella Pinner died in 1953 she gave her surname as Bush, and I presume they were still married. His companion of 40 years, Marjorie, took the name Bush but apparently they never married, though they could have after Ella’s death.

      Bush portrayed the teaching profession very negatively in The Case of the Dead Shepherd, including a negative portrait of an amorous female schoolteacher.

  2. I can see what you mean. I see Ryan Gosling in the first two photographs but not the others

  3. In fact, according to the ODNB, Geoffrey Bush was "the son of Charles Christmas Bush, schoolmaster and author, and his wife, Winifred, née Chart. His parents separated soon after his birth, and he never saw his father again." http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-69432?rskey=QBegVw&result=1
    which raises the question of his bastardy.

    1. The fullest account of Bush's life is in my introduction to the reprint series, which I urge you to take a look at, if you are interested in the matter. (You only have to buy one book, any one will do in this respect.) I hope this doesn't seem blasphemous, but when it comes to some of these writers I know more than ODNB. I'll quote from introduction:

      "Christopher’s romantic relationships proved far rockier than his career path, not to mention every bit as murky as his mother’s familial antecedents. In 1911, when Christopher was teaching in Wood Green School, a co-educational institution in Oxfordshire, he wed county council schoolteacher Ella Maria Pinner, a daughter of a baker neighbor of the Bushes in Great Hockham. The two appear never actually to have lived together, however, and in 1914, when Christopher at the age of 29 headed to war in the 16th (Public Schools) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, he falsely claimed in his attestation papers, under penalty of two years’ imprisonment with hard labor, to be unmarried.
      After four years of service in the Great War, including a year-long stint in Egypt, Christopher returned in 1919 to his position at Wood Green School, where he became involved in another romantic relationship, from which he soon desired to extricate himself. (A photo of the future author, taken at this time in Egypt, shows a rather dashing, thin-mustached man in uniform and is signed “Chris,” suggesting that he had dispensed with “Charlie” and taken in its place a diminutive drawn from his middle name.) The next year Winifred Chart, a mathematics teacher at Wood Green, gave birth to a son, whom she named Geoffrey Bush. Christopher was the father of Geoffrey, who later in life became a noted English composer, though for reasons best known to himself Christopher never acknowledged his son. (A letter Geoffrey once sent him was returned unopened.) Winifred claimed that she and Christopher had married but separated, but she refused to speak of her purported spouse forever after and she destroyed all of his letters and other mementos, with the exception of a book of poetry that he had written for her during what she termed their engagement.
      Christopher’s true mate in life, though with her he had no children, was Florence Marjorie Barclay, the daughter of a draper from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, and, like Ella Pinner and Winifred Chart, a schoolteacher. Christopher and Marjorie likely had become romantically involved by 1929, when Christopher dedicated to her his second detective novel, The Perfect Murder Case; and they lived together as man and wife from the 1930s until her death in 1968 (after which, probably not coincidentally, Christopher stopped publishing novels)."

    2. Contemporary ODNB entries are usually "official" memoirs by friends of the deceased, usually going by what they were told, so I wouldn't be surprised if you were more accurate. Mind you, for someone who drew "a negative portrait of an amorous female schoolteacher", Bush does seem to have failed to learn from experience if he got involved with three of them! A possible reason on both sides for keeping their relations quiet in every case was the fact that in Britain up to 1945(?) women who married were required to leave their jobs, especially national or local government jobs like teaching. Bush was entitled to certain allowances as a married soldier, so it isn't likely that he'd be prosecuted for claiming to be unmarried. On the other hand, those allowances would have gone to his wife and if he was already concealing her existence, he might have good reason to keep it quiet. Once my book pile is down to merely Snowdonian - rather than Everestish - proportions i'll get stuck into your editions!

    3. And the third schoolteacher he stayed with for four decades until her death, so third time lucky I guess. At least for him. My feeling is that Winifred didn't want the ignominy for her son of having been "born a bastard" so claimed she and Bush had been married, albeit briefly. But unless someone uncovers a divorce record for Bush and Ella Pinner, the only actual marriage anyone has found for Bush, then even had Winifred and Bush married, the marriage would not have been legal, so Geoffrey still would have been illegitimate.