Thursday, 29 January 2009

Herbert Howells: On Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry

The original biographer of Sir Charles Hastings Hubert Parry quotes the young Herbert Howells anecdote about his teacher. The words speak for themselves.

“It was Sir Hubert's way with many of us, when we were students at the R.C.M., to give as much attention to our physical as to our mental condition. He was keen to observe signs of fatigue: so keen, that on one occasion - it was on a Saturday morning at the R.C.M.-he pounced on me with a demand to know why my eyes looked so tired and strained. I told him the simple truth-that I had smashed the only pair of eye-glasses I had in the world. With many a 'God's truth!' and gold coin (which last he stuffed into my hand with a helpful sort of bluster), he ordered me off to Bateman's shop in Kensington High Street to get a new pair. 'No prescription here', I confessed. 'Where is it?' 'Somewhere in a shop in Gloucester " I told him.
And he dismissed me with an apparently irrelevant invitation to come and see him on Monday afternoon. It was only when Monday came and I obeyed the invitation that I discovered what reference it had to my dilemma. For he promptly produced a brand-new pair of spectacles and bubbled over with pleasure as he put them on my nose with a 'There now! go and finish that blessed piano concerto!' Later from another source I learned of his extraordinary kindness. He had changed his plans for the week-end, had gone down to Gloucester, had called on the optician who possessed the prescription, and by threat or entreaty had prevailed on the good man to have the new glasses ready by Monday morning. He had collected them and brought them up to London. All this to save time and to spare an obscure student a few extra hours' discomfort."

Charles L. Graves Hubert Parry: His Life and Works Macmillan & Co. Limited London 1926. Volume 1 p 383. This anecdote originally appeared in the memorial numbed ot the RCM Magazine.

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