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William Gerhardie (originally William Gaerhardi) (William Alexander Gerhardie) Biography

(1895–1977), (originally William Gaerhardi) (William Alexander Gerhardie), Anton Chehov, sic

British novelist, born in St Petersburg. He served in the British embassy at Petrograd, and the British military mission in Siberia during the First World War, after which he was educated at Worcester College, Oxford. There he wrote Anton Chehov (sic) (1923), the first book on Chekhov to be written in English, and his first novel, Futility: A Novel on Russian Themes (1922), which enjoyed a considerable succès d'estime, winning the praises of H. G. Wells and Edith Wharton among others. The novel captured the mood of the 1920s and is remarkable for the informal, conversational manner with which great recent events—the Russian Revolution and its aftermath—are presented. Gerhardie led a very social life, with many love affairs, and enjoyed the friendship of Wells and Beaverbrook. His second novel, The Polyglots (1925), concerns George Hamlet Alexander Diabologh, a young officer who, on a military mission in the Far East, encounters a highly eccentric Belgian family. The novel has a Chekhovian mingling of comedy and tragedy, of the inconsequential and the grave. Pending Heaven (1930) is the story of Paradise deferred for two literary friends who are also rivals in love. Resurrection (1934) derives from an actual experience of Gerhardie's when he felt his spirit rise from his body, and argues passionately for life after death. Of Mortal Love (1936) draws on Gerhardie's considerable amatory experience. His lively autobiography Memoirs of a Polyglot (1931) was followed by The Romanovs (1940), a historical biography of the Russian dynasty. For the rest of his life he lived increasingly as a recluse. Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky edited God's Fifth Column (1981), a biography. His name appeared as Gerhardie for the first time on the revised collected edition of his works, published in ten volumes in the early 1970s. There is a biography by Dido Davies (1990).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Richard Furness Biography to Robert Murray Gilchrist Biography