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Letter from niece Mary Kennerley to her mother; letters and postcards from a series of 27 from Bennett to Mary between 1922 and 1930.

Letter from niece Mary Kennerley to her mother; letters and postcards from a series of 27 from Bennett to Mary between 1922 and 1930.

Letter from niece Mary Kennerley to her mother;
letters and postcards from a series of 27 from Bennett to Mary between 1922 and 1930.
 

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Letter from niece Mary Kennerley to her mother

Letter from niece Mary Kennerley to her mother; 
​letters and postcards from a series of 27 from Bennett to Mary between 1922 and 1930.

These previously unpublished letters show Bennett as an affectionate and conscientious uncle as he instructs Mary in French and advises her in her career.

The handwriting of Mary’s missive reveal that she is quite young and, reading between the lines, she seems happy to be away from mother Tertia (Bennett’s favourite sister).  The French lessons commence as Mary essays un chien raton (raccoon dog).   Bennett persists and in the postcard dated 31/1/22 (in French, translations by John Potter) he corrects Mary’s grammar and her address to him from ‘vous’ to ‘tu’, reassuring her the letter is otherwise very good. 

In a letter dated 8/6/24 he discusses the exhaustion caused by preparations for the play London Life and the potential for ‘immense’ profit margins.  London Life did not match the success of Milestones or The Great Adventure and closed on Drury Lane after thirty-nine performances. 

The difficulties of a one-sided correspondence (for the researcher) are apparent: on a British Museum postcard (30/9/26), Bennett writes asking Mary to let him know about the result of an interview and telling her in no uncertain terms: ‘no lines, either horizontal or vertical; but horizontal is less evil than vertical.’  Without the context of Mary’s to Bennett, this unequivocal instruction remains cryptic – could it be fashion advice? 

A few years later Mary was staying in Paris and met up with Bennett and Dorothy.  The letter preceding their trip (4/2/28) again suggests Bennett’s preoccupation with hotel appointments: ‘If the Vignon is really quiet and really good and has bathrooms, you might let me know my dear.’ 

After putting in a word for Mary with Lady Paget (patron of the Wounded Allies’ Relief Committee), Bennett has cause to reprimand his niece (13/11/30).  With the thoughtlessness of youth, Mary has omitted to tell him that she has already secured a post.  The admonition is gently made in an otherwise kindly letter and Bennett closes as usual ‘Your aff. unc.’