One needn’t be au courant in the art of canoeing to lap up Major R. Raven-Hart’s eccentric travel books, including Canoe Errant, Down the Mississippi and Canoe in Australia. Hardly remembered now, Raven-Hart (above, right) was once highly regarded, having penned dozens of books, covering topics as diverse as semaphores, engineering, classical Greek sculpture, South African exploration, Ceylonese culture, and of course his greatest passion, canoeing.
Or was it? Reading of his exotic exploits, one can’t help but be struck by Raven-Hart’s unerring interest in his youthful traveling companions, as well as his endless fascination with nude sunbathing. A devout naturist, Raven-Hart eschewed clothing whenever possible, particularly when cruising some obscure river or lake. He yearned to be streaming along, beside his nimble-bodied playmates. And in the 1930s, he paddled over 10,000 miles, a sort of “satyr errant,” fulfilling this erotic quest.
I stumbled upon Raven-Hart years ago when I’d noticed his name in a round-up of gay-themed books compiled by the ground-breaking bibliographer Ian Young. Perplexed why a writer who so obviously specialized in canoeing would be included on such a list, I ordered a copy of Canoe Errant, his best-known work, published in 1935 by the London firm John Murray. The cover immediately grabbed my attention, for on the dust jacket was the startling image of a naked youth leaning over a fold-up canoe, on the banks of the Seine, with the curious caption. “Even near Paris so lonely that one has no need to dress to bathe.”
Considering the era, when male nudity, especially revolving around athletic activities, was not at all uncommon (even Life magazine often published photos of schoolboys swimming buck naked), the cover was perfectly natural. But later when I finally dipped into the Major’s riveting account of his journeys, I was swept away by his unusual candor. His unapologetic appreciation of young male beauty is remarkable for any time period. And his style, although occasionally archaic, never fails to titillate or amuse. Impressed by the 15-year-old son of a fish-breeder who put him up for a night, Raven-Hart writes: “I visited them again, and fixed, I hope, to take with me on a cruise in 1935 this same youngster, now a superb youth with that development of the oblique belly-muscles out beyond the line of the thigh which is so frequent in Greek statues and so rare in living bodies to-day.”
One might dismiss such comments as the exacting observations of a dedicated fitness enthusiast and amateur sculptor, but page after page ofCanoe Errant exudes similar quirky asides. The book starts off with a trip in 1930 along the Loire, visiting the famous chateaux by canoe. It’s a romantic idyll made even more so by the presence of Leonard, a teen-age boy who “was an apprentice to a famous master-potter. He was also a model to a sculptor friend of mine in Paris…his sixteen-year-old body was a sight for the Greeks.” And one might infer, for Raven-Hart’s sore eyes. At Candes, they treated themselves to a room at an inn, with apparently just a single bed. “Leonard paddled in his sleep,” Raven-Hart, then 40 years old, writes, “and nearly pushed me out on the floor.”
Raven-Hart never lacked for companions, despite the fact that turnover was constant. He relied almost completely on word-of-mouth. In Anseremme, he momentarily found himself without a traveling partner (he claimed that cruising alone was dangerous, but he never seems to have found any adult volunteers.) “In the way such things do happen, a casual conversation in the train with an English father and son led to their equally casual mention of my canoe to another English family at their hotel, with the result that by that same evening I had secured a new partner, an English schoolboy of sixteen.”
Later at a stop-over in Germany, Raven-Hart visits a Youth Hostel and enlists Paul, a “solid, sensible lad of seventeen,” from Hamburg, who is “a whirl of brown legs and arms with a grin in the middle of it.” Paul, we learn, has the “irresistible impudence of a fox-terrier puppy” who “makes friends with everyone.” As they cruise down the Rhine, in parts where “still, the pastoral dominates,” they “stayed naked so much as to forget it: Paul couldn’t make out why the passengers on a steamer grinned down at him, until after it had passed us.”
The joy of skinny-dipping appears to have been half the goal of these athletic excursions. In Hungary Raven-Hart hooks up with a lad named Johan, whom he writes, “proved even better-looking when stripped…we bathed three or four times that day, the first really hot one of the season…and in no case needed to dress to do so — in the boat, we are of course naked.”
One of the more bizarre incidents occurs when Raven-Hart cruises the Neckar river in Germany. At a hostel in Lichtenfels, he inquires about a companion, but someone “smaller” than the 30-year-old who volunteers. “The whole room chorused ‘Pibel!’ and a small sleepy head wriggled out of a cocoon of blankets in a corner and blinked at us.” Pibel turns out to be a nickname for “shrimp” and “it fitted him perfectly, a boy of sixteen with the stature of a twelve-year-old, but a perfect miniature, with no trace of dwarfishness or retarded development.”
The two get on instantly. “Pibel was the most catlike person I have ever met (this is not a criticism — I like cats); he talked little, and seemed to like best to use my shoulder as a pillow and my arm as a neckerchief, and play with my fingers, solemnly opening and closing them one after the other — he did not actually purr, but I felt he might start at any moment. At night, too, he had the same catlike habit of curling himself up as close to me as possible, and I usually had to deposit him bodily on his own side of the tent just as one does with a cat occupying one’s chair, at least once before I got to sleep; and even so he was generally curled into my lap in the morning, with his head pillowed on the softest portions of me and giving me nightmares of indigestion.” Later in a boathouse, they slept on the floor: “I on my pneumatic mattress, and Pibel largely on me.”
During a cruise along Lake Constance, Raven-Hart is ahead of schedule, and without a comrade. “At the Youth Hostel at Lindau…close to the Austrian frontier, I picked up an out-of-work youngster, by trade a butcher’s boy.” Werner is a “bronzed sixteen years,” with “eyes brightened and cheeks flushed by our windy journey,” whose looks “were by no means badly shown off by shirt and shorts, and more than one of the guests seemed to agree with me.” Later, in the room upstairs, Werner shows Raven-Hart an engraved visiting-card he received, with a coronet on it. A countess had given it to him. “Whether he noticed a pencilled room-number in the corner of the card,” Raven Hart slyly adds, “I did not ask; and I am a heavy sleeper after such a day.”
So Werner we presume preferred the company of ladies. And just when one is beginning to think that maybe one is reading too much into Raven-Hart’s homoerotic musings — perhaps he really is only dealing in abstract aesthetics — he tosses out this earthy anecdote. In Leipzig, Raven-Hart meets up with Christian, a shop boy he had arranged to travel with. “I spent the night at the Youth Hostel, being ‘entertained’ after lights-out in the big dormitory by a competition of dirty stories (all old, at that and so badly told).” Raven-Hart debates whether to intervene, since there are younger boys present. But he decides not to since such talk is only natural in Youth Hostels, where also, he adds coyly “… a certain amount of surreptitious petting between friends occupying adjacent beds is not infrequently to be overheard.”
What are we to make of such remarks? And what did readers at the time make of it? Did the Major indulge in “surreptitious petting” himself? It seems highly unlikely. One has to assume he kept his affections within the bounds of normal male bonding, even if he did enjoy a kind of voyeuristic thrill. For him to have crossed a line with any of these youths would not only have endangered his reputation, but his mission. He would also have jeopardized any chance of finding future companions or of being taken seriously as a scholar and explorer. It’s difficult to read his books today without a contemporary jaundiced eye, but at the time no one seemed to raise even an eyebrow, let alone find it odd that a man in his 40s spent all his time with adolescent boys. A review of Canoe Errant in the Winnipeg Free Press from 1935 indicates that these highly personal asides were welcome: “The many racy anecdotes of peoples met and incidents experienced are of extreme interest. It is a jolly fireside book.”
One of the Major’s particular favorites in Canoe Errant is a lad named Siegfried, whom the Consul at Eisenach had found for him. “His entry into that dingy little hotel-room was like the switching-on of an extra hundred-watt light: a mop of brilliantly blond hair, eyes like the sun seen through a wave, and the whitest of teeth in a shy smile. Physically, he was, I suppose, about perfect: it came almost as a shock to learn that he was a tailor.” At Anselben, they stop at another Youth Hostel. The next morning, when they awake, “we found a horde of schoolboys, who swarmed round us and on us all the evening, especially pestering the long-suffering Siegfried to know where we had come from, and how long it had taken… they were rather dears.”
Later, while traveling with Siegfried to a “F.A.D.” or German work camp, Raven-Hart writes of meeting one of the boys kept there, “an open-faced child of nineteen,” who helps him carry the canoe to the river. While Siegfried is relieving himself behind a bush, Raven-Hart asks this other boy why he ended up in the camp. “I had to choose between it and the Reformatory,” the lad answers. “What on earth for?” Raven-Hart naively asks. “I never had a job before, couldn’t get one since I left school, so I went on the ‘Strich’ till they caught me: now of course I shan’t go back to that.” After the boy leaves, Raven-Hart asks Siegfried what “Strich” means, but Siegfried merely blushes from head to toe and refuses to answer. Apparently, Raven-Hart, despite his fluency in five languages, and knowledge of a dozen more, was unaware that “Strich” is German slang for prostitution.
Siegfried, himself, it turns out, has something to hide. A few days later, when they are confronted by a patrol guard, Siegfried shows the soldier his papers, revealing that Siegfried is actually a member of the S.A., the notorious Nazi brown shirts. Siegfried explains to Raven-Hart that his father was losing all their business, but since he joined the group, “We’ve got it all back.” Such telling details are remarkable, lending Raven-Hart’s eyewitness account an added historical interest, recalling at times Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories.
Not all of Raven-Hart’s chums were selected for their beauty. Kurt, the 15-year-old son of a hotel keeper in Breslau, was “an ugly kid, with a grin that gashed his face in half, but delightfully German, complete with heel-click and the funny head-bow (as if the upper vertebrae had suddenly changed to rubber) and a clumsy handshake of a boyish paw.” Kurt was “an enthusiastic member of the ‘Hitler Jugend’ (Hitler Youth), the association which took over the various forms of Boy Scouts and the like; and at his own suggestion wore the uniform for our trip, including the useful dagger duly engraved with ‘Blood and Honour.’” Raven-Hart adds that “I thoroughly agree that such militarisation of the young is deplorable.” But he argues he is enough of a boy at heart to enjoy the swagger of such emblems. That first day they bathed seven or eight times, he writes: “the H. J. costume, needless to say, giving place to a far more antique ‘uniform’ both in and out of the boat, so lonely was it.”
One of the unexpected fascinations of Canoe Errant is in watching as Raven-Hart threads his way through Germany and Austria, and later Hungary and Czechoslovakia and documents the changing tenor of the youthful organizations he meets, the increasing threat of violence he witnesses as Nazism takes hold, and the greater difficulty he had in passing customs and inspections. He is also shocked by the antisemitism he encounters. Meeting German officers at a work camp, extolling Aryanism, he is appalled by the “incredible rubbish they talked, apparently in all good faith, about the Jews and their secret societies for the purpose of undermining Western civilization.” One can’t help wondering how many of his youthful companions were killed during the war.
Raven-Hart, who stood 6 feet, 2 inches, and sported a long, scraggly beard, must have had enormous charm, since he has an uncanny knack for making friends instantly with total strangers. At Lubben, after finding out that his next mate, a “jolly kid of fourteen, met in Brandenburg, the previous season” is not coming because his father is sick, Raven-Hart soothes his soul with a beer at an inn across from the railroad station. Within minutes, a youngster sauntered by, “looked at my beer and grinned at me.” Then “after he had gulped half a litre or so — I find the combination of red hair, freckles, and a grin quite irresistible — I asked him his plans.” One doesn’t have to read too deeply between the lines here to get the gist. Raven-Hart must have offered the boy a beer, and then wooed him to join him. No mention of money passing hands is ever hinted at. One presumes these drifters had time on their hands and merely wanted an escape. But the similarity to the language of sexual pick-ups is clear, if not actually deliberate.
And no doubt there were extra thrills in hooking up with drifters and riff-raff, a risk the eccentric Raven-Hart seems to relish. At Aggsbach he talks of meeting a young man, 19, who had been arrested in Belgrade for not having proper identification, then was rescued by a senior police officer “who had taken a fancy to him,” hired him as a valet, after which he ran off to the circus and became the assistant to a lion-tamer. Later he stowed away on a boat to Marseilles, where he smuggled opium, was a runner for a brothel, “and quite incidentally killed a negro, who had at first been very friendly and later drawn a razor…” and was now working as a “courier-valet to an English traveller.” Raven-Hart recognizes the literary appeal of such a wayward life. “If only that sort of person could, or would, write their experiences!”
Wending his way through Hungary, Raven-Hart meets a boy named Imre at the bath house there, “who replied to my query as to whether or not he knew anyone who could swim and might like a canoe trip by diving off into the shallow warm water and doing a perfect somersault plus side-way twist below it, coming up grinning, tapping himself on the breast with one hand and readjusting his loin-cloth with the other.” While in Hungary he witnessed a strange scene: “a coupé, four-wheeled and two-horsed, standing wheel-deep in the river while horses and carriage were washed by four naked urchins… ‘Eros and the Brougham.’” This was a stark contrast to the island of Rav, “full of unpleasant people, fat women in beach pyjamas with gilded toe-nails, and the slinky youths who are their inevitable parasites.”
In Austria, he is disenchanted with his companion, Alfred, who talked nonstop about the Anschluss. But a trip to the lakes made up for it, as they bathed “for hours in very shallow water, on a sand-bank in the company of a band of urchins ranging from six to sixteen: they dashed for their clothes as we approached, but our own absence of costume encouraged them to return to their nakedness.”
At Kotor, Raven-Hart “finally dropped Alfred, being unable to put up with him any longer, and spent one more, and far more pleasant, day there with a Yugoslav boy picked up by signs on the quay.” They stopped at a deserted beach to bathe and to take photographs. “He succeeded in explaining to me that certain scars on his body were from boiling water as a baby, and others from red-hot irons used by the gendarmes to persuade him to give the names of the ringleaders of an arsenal-strike in which he had taken part. The colouring of his body was indescribable: words like ‘tanned’ or ‘bronzed’ fail entirely to convey it. The nearest I can get is that he looked as if he had used several tins of the darkest mahogany boot-polish… nor were there any disfiguring white areas, under the arms or round the loins…he was exceptional even in this country of naked sun-bathers.”
When Raven-Hart came to America in 1936 to cruise down the Mississippi (a trip recounted in his book Canoe Errant on the Mississippi, entitled Down the Mississippi in the States) he traveled with a 23-year-old named James N. Grant, from Helen, Georgia, who had heard of Raven-Hart’s trip through a newspaper interview and signed on. No doubt there was an elaborate network of canoeing enthusiasts communicating this way, through the press and newsletters, serving also perhaps as a link for like-minded souls. On the ship record of his voyage from Europe to the United States to make this trip, Raven-Hart indicated that he would be staying with a friend in New York, “Van B. Claussen.” This turns out to have been Waldemar Van Brunt Claussen, the author of the standard Boy Scouts Merit Badge booklet on canoeing. Claussen appears to have been a bachelor, at least per the 1930 census. One wonders if he had more in common with Raven-Hart than just their shared interest in sports.
But who in fact was this mysterious Major R. Raven-Hart? Eager to find out more about this intriguing character, I did my usual Google searches and found very little about him on the web. He does not as yet have a Wikipedia entry, nor is there an obituary for him. I did manage to find references to him in other blogs and a few tantalizing details, including an excerpt from his book Canoe to Mandalay which I had not yet read. It seems to be similar in tone to Canoe Errant, featuring many of the same curiously candid discussions of male beauty. For instance at the American Baptist Mission School in Myitkyina, he selects Ma Tu, 15, as his traveling companion. He was “stocky, not good-looking until he smiled,” which he did “explosively when I patted his solid brown shoulder on choosing him, and I knew that I was going to like him.” (Raven-Hart holding hands with MaTu, below.)
Ma Tu had to return home, but the Major made do with another young man, Nyo, who looks sixteen but is actually 22. “The skin of his cheeks as soft as that of his arms, and as little pubic hair as a just-adolescent European or American boy.” You can read more of this material here at “The World History of Male Love.”
Roland James Milleville Raven-Hart was born in 1889, in Glen Alla, Ireland. His father, William R. Raven, was descended from a long line of English men of the cloth, succeeding his own father as Vicar of Snaith. William Raven added the hyphenated Hart to his name upon marrying Edith Hester Maria O’Neill Fairbrother, a member of the Hart clan,. She was of Irish descent, a fact Roland made much of in his books. The father traveled constantly, assuming various posts. Shortly after Roland’s birth, the family moved back to England. William died there in 1919; Edith in 1941. A sister Hester, who wrote a history of theatre costumes, died in 1946, apparently unmarried.
Raven-Hart attended the University of London as a member of the Officer Training Corps. During World War One, he was wounded in Egypt and convalesced at a hospital there. In 1919, he was given the O.B.E. for “valuable services rendered.” Raven-Hart served as a signalling officer, and an expert in semaphores. As early as 1915, while a Captain, he wrote a booklet The Signalling Instructor, with “notes on teaching of semaphore, Morse and station work, with Morse practice tables, and an appendix on the system of signalling in use in the French, Belgian, German and Austrian armies.” His facility with foreign languages and expertise in code served him well. He worked in the British intelligence department, where he befriended T. E. Lawrence, below.
Thanks to a friend with access to online genealogical records, I was able to find out the extraordinary fact that Raven-Hart was married in Edmonton in 1916 to a woman his age named Mary R. Croft. This was a total shock, considering his later writings, but he seems to have remained married to her for quite some time. In ship records during Raven-Hart’s trip to America in 1936, her name, Mary, is given as his wife (although she did not travel with him.) Raven-Hart gives his last permanent residence as La Ciotat, in the south of France. In a later trip, Italy is given as his residence, and his wife as “Rosa.” This was probably a clerk’s Italianization of Rose, since I have found evidence that Mary R. Croft’s middle name was Rose. (A Mary Rose Croft, born in 1889, was living in London in the 1911 census.) But what happened to Mary R. Croft later on? I have found no record of a death for any Mary or Rose Raven-Hart, and she is not mentioned in any later documents. In fact, I have found no reference to her in any of Raven-Hart’s books. I find this odd. He writes in Canoe Errant about contacting friends in London, sending letters and wires home. But not once does he mention the wife he left behind!
After the war, Raven-Hart became an engineer, working for railway companies. He spent a good part of the 1920s in Argentina. In 1920 he listed his address as “c/o Central Argentine Rly, Co. Buenos Aires.” In 1930, he wrote a booklet on “radio composing.” From then on, however, he seems to have given up working to devote himself full time to his hobby of canoeing. Canoe Errant details his trips from 1930-1935. The latter 30s were spent crisscrossing the globe, as he wrote his books on the the Nile, and the Mississippi, as well as his historic exploration of the Irrawaday in Burma, finding its source in Mandalay.
In a 1937 article about cruising down the Nile, (photo, above), which Raven-Hart wrote for the New York Times, he observes with his usual gimlet-eye how Egypt, over the centuries, has bred “a fine, aristocratically lean, hard-flanked type, with greyhound lines, so that a Nubian lad stripped for work or a swim looks like the shadow of a young Greek god.” One scratches one’s head today and wonders what the editors of the Times thought, or for that matter, what its readers made of Raven-Hart’s aesthetic musings. Perhaps that was his plan. He was an expert in code, after all. By writing these suggestive asides, he sent out a message to friends and followers. And very often hooked up with new recruits and fans by virtue of them. During World War II, he seems to have volunteered as an engineering expert with the Royal Air Force. But whether he ever flew any planes (some sources call him a “pilot”) is unclear.
On the heels of WWII, he wrote two books, The Happy Isles and a booklet on Canoeing in Ireland. During the 40s, he traveled throughout Australia, out of which he wrote Canoe in Australia (1948). Not quite as racy as Canoe Errant, the Australia book still has its curious asides. At Currawarna, he runs into a gaggle of lads: “they ranged from 8 to 13 with an older brother of 16, all very tousle-headed and happily shabby, one of them in shorts which repeatedly failed in their duty to his unembarrassed amusement.”
At Sale, he hooks up with a boy named Leslie, “a Melbourne boy who had got into touch with me during my first stay in that city, thanks to a newspaper interview. He was an ever-cheerful youngster: he had worked in an aeroplane factory, and as a waiter, and in a radio works — he was now, he told me, working on the roads for a municipality, with pick and shovel…I was glad that he had taken this out-door work, since it had developed him beautifully: when we first met his chest and arms were a bit skinny — now they were a joy to look at, steel-hard under silk-soft.”
Swimming at Ninety Mile Beach near the Gippsland Lakes, Raven-Hart comments on the abundant fish: “shoals of babies skipped like fleas over the water ahead of us, and investigated us indecorously when we bathed, to Leslie’s ribald amusement. He had a delicious slow smile, and an irresistible laugh, beginning as a chortle and developing into an explosion that shook his flat, corded belly. He nearly went to sleep after our n’th swim, lying naked in the sand, utterly relaxed as one never seems able to relax except in the lap of the Great Mother: I longed for modelling-wax, but had to content myself with a photograph.”
Australia also yielded trips with Robin, a 15-year-old with a “chunky, solid little body” and Alan, 17, with “ginger hair and milk-white skin” that burned easily. “He knew it only too well, and wisely remained shirted except at our frequent swims: a pity, since his body was a joy for a sculptor’s eyes, still slim and graceful, but with the muscles clearly marked.” By book’s end, Raven-Hart is unhappy to leave this exotic continent behind, regretting “that my long-hoped-for Australian cruises were over, and the pleasant companionships with Australian boys ended.” He consoles himself by knowing he may return, with Bevan, or Alan, or “some as-yet-unknown youngster” but “it will not be the same thing. I shall expect that friendliness which came as such a pleasant surprise, and I shall never re-capture the thrill when I first realised that I had fallen in love with the river-gums….”
A query recently posted in the London Sunday Times, here, states that Raven-Hart lived in Ceylon from 1947-1963. Sometime in the 50s he was introduced to Arthur C. Clarke, who had stopped for the day in Colombo. The two hit it off, and Raven-Hart appears to have convinced Clarke to move there. The story was written up in People magazine,here. Clarke’s sexuality has been a subject of much debate over the years, especially before he was knighted. In The Guardian, author Michael Moorcock wrote: “Everyone knew he was gay. In the 1950s I’d go out drinking with his boyfriend. We met his proteges, western and eastern, and their families, people who had only the most generous praise for his kindness. Self-absorbed he might be, and a teetotaller, but an impeccable gent through and through.”
Clarke resided in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in a large house with a young male native (and the man’s wife), staffed with handsome local lads, many of them no doubt friends of Raven-Hart’s. Clarke has been quoted as saying that Raven-Hart “easily tops my list of ‘The Most Unforgettable Characters I’ve Ever Met,” adding that he was “a tall, distinguished-looking man of sixty-five, with a straggly beard which gave him a distinct likeness to Conan Doyle’s Professor Summerlee.”
During the 50s, Raven-Hart wrote Where the Buddha Trod, about his journeys in India. He also put out several books about Ceylon, including translations of historical accounts: Heydt’s Ceylon (1952),Germans in Dutch Ceylon (1953) and Travels in Ceylon, 1700-1800(1963), Ceylon: History in Stone (1964).
Raven-Hart never flagged in his enthusiasm for comely ephebes. According to Allen Carr, a writer about Ceylon, Raven-Hart inserted numerous homophile references in his later works: “In the engaging account he wrote of his journey to places of Buddhist pilgrimage in India in 1956 he referred to the ‘superb young manhood naked above the waist; boys with the irreducible minimum of clothing’ that he encountered in villages. ‘Sweets were sold on the train by small Sikh boys, many of them as delectable as their wares were not.’ Nor did he waver from his nearly scientific penchant for describing the secondary sex characteristics of the local natives: “At Bodh Gaya, Raven-Hart took a village boy with him on his hikes around the countryside. ‘(W)e found a lonely island-sandbank, and had a swim and lay in the sun to dry. I regretted that I had no camera since the lad was a beautifully-made fourteen or fifteen, with square, flat pectorals, and the abdominal muscles clearly defined right down to the just-growing pubic hair.’”
Raven-Hart even found time in 1957 to write an article entitled “The Naturist’s Ideal Holiday” for one of the era’s better-known nudist magazines, Health & Efficiency, (the particular issue, above.) Sometime in the 60s, however, Raven-Hart moved from Ceylon and settled in South Africa where he continued to churn out scholarly articles and books about the region’s culture and history, including one of his best known works, Before Van Riebeeck: Callers at South Africa from 1488 to 1652. It is presumed that he died there, sometime after 1971, the date of his last book, Cape of Good Hope 1652–1702: The First Fifty Years of Dutch. Colonization.
So what are we to make of the Major and his minors? As a slice of life in days gone by, Raven-Hart’s canoeing books are amusing relics, engaging records with a wildly personal slant. Some might find them creepy today. Others might wax nostalgic for the imagined good old days. They are a window into a lost world of innocence and freedom. However you may feel about them, they are important historical documents, not only of a time when such exhilarating canoe treks were still possible, but of an era when a certain naiveté about sexual matters was still in full bloom.
One wonders what happened to all of Raven-Hart’s papers, journals, letters and photographs. He admitted in one of his books that he’d lost much of his archive, including his own out-of-print books, during the Blitz in London. But what of his personal papers, photographs, and belongings accumulated from 1945 until his death? Surely they weren’t just tossed out in the garbage. If anyone knows more about their whereabouts, I would appreciate hearing from you. Then we can more accurately assess the legacy of Major R. Raven-Hart’s extraordinary oeuvre.