Unpublished Alec de Candole Poem discovered in the Memorial Library
Alec de Candole (C3 1911-16) is one of the lesser known war poets active during the Great War. He was a talented pupil at Marlborough, and was awarded various scholarships and prizes while at the College. He had intended to study Theology at Cambridge before taking Holy Orders, but, with war raging in Europe, was commissioned to the Fourth Wiltshire Regiment, and dispatched to France in the Spring of 1917. De Candole was barely out of his teens when he joined the army, and only 21 when he met his death at Bonningues in France during a bombing raid on the evening of 3rd September 1918, just a few weeks before the end of the war.
It wasn’t until after the war that his poetry came to public attention through small publications initially sponsored by his grieving father, but later taken up in 1919 by Cambridge University Press. His poetic corpus consists of some 85 poems, and presents a snapshot of life on the front, and how a young man of the time saw the conflict. They mark an important contribution to the literature of this period.
With such a small published oeuvre, the discovery of a previously unpublished poem by Alec de Candole is uniquely special. Pupil Jonty Nicholas (C3 Sh) made the remarkable discovery in the Memorial Library in March, and has been working with Dr Simon McKeown, who looks after the College’s rare book collection, to research and transcribe the poem.
Jonty explained: “I found his book Poems whilst researching OM writers in the College library and out fell two pieces of paper containing the handwritten unpublished poem. I have decided to research the life of Alec de Candole as my Shell Form Project with a purpose to publishing the poem, with the permission from his descendent, Mr Simon de Candole”.
Dr McKeown added: “I have been very impressed by Jonty’s tenacity in researching the short and tragic life of Alec de Candole, the forgotten War Poet of Marlborough, killed just a few weeks before the Armistice. By following a trail beginning with a manuscript poem tucked into a book in the Library, Jonty has brought De Candole back into focus, and made the case that this prodigiously talented young man deserves to stand in estimation alongside Marlborough’s more recognised writers of the trenches, Sassoon and Sorley. Jonty’s literary archaeology in this project has been outstanding.”
The transcribed poem can be read here in print for the first time.