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Your KS #19: Hugo Throssell

I’m up to 1915 in my biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard, the year she met her future husband, Hugo Throssell, in London. He’d just been wounded at Gallipoli; her first novel had just been published and she was preparing to return to Australia. He wasn’t yet a major figure in her life. They were attracted to each other in 1915, but they were both interested in other people too.

The question for me as a biographer is how much of his story to tell. There’s been an increasing number of dual biographies in recent years, especially of couples, but that’s not what I’m doing, and so the account of Hugo’s life before Katharine has to be kept concise. Still, I stop to tell his “back-story” for a couple of pages. (You can get away with things in biography you wouldn’t get away with in fiction!)

Picture: Hugo Throssell leaving hospital ca. October 1915. From Sydney Mail, 5 January 1916.

Here’s some interesting aspects of Hugo’s life you may not know:

  • His father, the politician and merchant George Throssell, had been a staunch temperance advocate and Hugo says that “the first occasion during his lifetime on which he had taken strong drink” was at Gallipoli, the night before a bayonet charge. It was whisky and he didn’t like it much.

  • After Hugo nearly died from bacterial meningitis in September 1915, the famous Australian painter Tom Roberts became his unofficial “batman” (an officer’s personal servant). Roberts was fifty-nine, living in London, and had volunteered to work as an orderly at the army hospital to do his bit for the war effort. The two toured around London, and Roberts later came to visit Hugo and Katharine in Greenmount.

  • One of the places Roberts took Hugo was to Henrietta Watson’s house. She was an actress ten years older than Hugo. He’d become enchanted with her seeing her perform when he was a schoolboy and written to her years later. He wrote to her again in London and she came to visit him in hospital. Touring Australia in 1916, Hugo told the story of his unlikely relationship with Watson. When he said, before he left London, that he was suffering “a heart affection,” did he mean Watson or Katharine?

More on Katharine at Nathan’s blog,

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