‘And is there honey still for tea?’ Rupert Brooke famously asked in his poem about Grantchester. There was for a while but not for very long. ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ was written in Berlin in 1912, in a mood of playful irony mixed with wistful lyricism. It was Cambridge remembered. That mood, that tone, that wistful prattle were the noise of the time. So, in 1911, Ferenc Békássy writes to Noël Olivier, the woman for whose affections he is competing with Rupert Brooke:
I write under the pretext of apologising for my unceremonious departure. And as this is not enough to fill up a letter, I continue.
You went to Lapthorne’s, I suppose and had a huge time: Sylvia wrote me a letter re Chronicle the other day mentioning this as a coming event. I wish I were not so far from everything! Here am I in a sort of amphibian condition...
Békássy is only eighteen and is writing from his home estate at Zsennye, out in the Hungarian sticks. His English is impeccable – almost too impeccable. He had, after all, been sent to Bedales in 1905, when he was just twelve, which is where he met Olivier. The