Discovery by Graham Avery of new material on Clarence’s life - and his last days
In June 2014 Graham Avery found in Geneva’s Botanical Garden an extraordinary archive of letters and postcards sent by Clarence Bicknell to his friend the Swiss botanist Emile Burnat. In this collection of about 690 letters and postcards, sent over a period of 30 years, Clarence writes not only about botany but about his ideas and activities in many other fields.
On his visit to the archive in 2014 Graham made a first selection of the correspondence, which he published as ‘Cher Monsieur - Clarence Bicknell’s correspondence with Emile Burnat 1886-1917’. You can find it on our website at http://www.clarencebicknell.com/images/downloads_news/burnat_letters_from_bicknell.pdf
In August 2016 Graham completed his exploration of the archive in Geneva, where he found a wealth of new information. The themes covered in the correspondence include Clarence’s comments on life, death, religion, art, opera, prehistoric rock engravings, mountains, Esperanto, the politics of the Great War, bicycles, automobiles, Swiss beer, and much else. Graham plans to edit and publish this on our website.
Meanwhile we can already publish a transcript of one of the letters found by Graham and you can download it here. It was written on 24 July 1918 by Clarence’s nephew Edward Berry to Emile Burnat, to inform him of Clarence’s death. This is a valuable find – it’s the earliest account that we have of Clarence’s last days and hours. Edward Berry knew Emile Burnat and his family, including his son Jean, personally. He writes to them in French (translated by Graham) that in the afternoon of 17 July, at his mountain home Casa Fontanalba, Clarence Bicknell...
‘...went to rest on a chaise longue on the terrace, in full view of the mountains, and a quarter of an hour later he expired without pain. One couldn’t imagine a better death for him’.