Monday, 31 December 2012

Mystery Monday - "Are you going out, father?"

A photograph of Ellen Milton Palethorpe on her wedding day
Ellen Milton Palethorpe daughter of
Arthur Milton & cousin of novelist
D.H.Lawrence
As Aaron Sisson left his house on Christmas Eve his daughter Millicent called after him "You won't forget our candles, will you?".  It was the last time that Millicent would see her father.  He was meant to be going out to buy final decorations for the tree they had just decorated and to play his piccolo for Christmas carols at the pub in the Nottinghamshire mining village in which he lived. He didn't return and Millicent, her sister and mother never discovered what happened to him.

According to novelist D.H.Lawrence, Aaron left his wife and children that cold Christmas Eve in a search for freedom that took him first to London and then across Europe to Italy and finally Florence.  Lawrence, had no further interest in  Millicent and her sister but I find the story of the two little girls deserted by their father on Christmas night heart rending.


It is only a story, but like all Lawrence's books it had origins in his own family's life.  Lawrence's mother, Lydia Beardsall, had a cousin Emily whose husband Arthur Milton disappeared without trace one Christmas leaving behind two young daughters Florence and Ellen.  The two stories seem too similar for Lawrence not to have been influenced by Arthur's disappearance and in inventing the name "Aaron Sisson" Lawrence seems to have done his usual trick of corrupting the actual name of the person upon whom his character was based.

I have spent many hours - perhaps too many - searching for Arthur Milton, to no avail.  One of the little girls he left behind was my great grandmother, Ellen Milton, and for her sake I would love to know why he left and where he went.   To leave your children seems the most awful thing and I sense that it was a terrible scar on Ellen's life but I do hope that Arthur was, in true Nottinghamshire understatement, "OK" and that somehow all that pain was worth it.  It would be dreadful to discover that he'd  just changed his name and run off with another woman.  I don't like Lawrence's version of my family history but in the end I would rather know Arthur - like Aaron - found freedom in Florence than that.

1 comment:

  1. That's a really intriguing story - good luck with your search.

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