When 'Brighter French' was first published in 1927, the author was identified only by his initials 'H-T-R-'. No one knew who 'H-T-R-' was, but he seemed to be someone well-heeled. In his world, 'the real French of everyday life' was 'the spoken language of the dinner-table, the boudoir, the theatre, race-course, promenade-deck, stables, garage, etc.' His full name was Harry Thompson Russell, a multi-talented man who lived an eventful life - the first part of it conventional, the second less so. He was born in Ireland in 1875, brought up in Milford House, County Limerick, and went to school at Cheltenham College in England (where he excelled academically) and then joined the Royal Artillery as a cadet. He was mentioned in Despatches in the second Boer War; authored a number of military manuals, including 'A French-English Military Vocabulary'; won a prestigious prize for a remarkable military essay in 1911, and retired with the rank of Lieut.-Colonel at the end of World War I. He had married Alicia Studdert of Bunratty Castle, County Clare, in 1902, and they had four children. Prior to the war, they lived in South Africa, in Ireland (County Cork), and at Dinard in France. So far, so very conventional; then in 1926, H-T-R- divorced and remarried, to Marion Lee of County Dublin. Cut off from his former comfortable life and needing money to support a new family, a H-T-R- emerged that the Bright Young People might have found easier to understand. He and his new wife worked as private detectives in London for a time. Then 'Brighter French' was published and was a huge hit. Two more books followed, including 'The Brighter French Word-Book' in 1929 and 'Still Brighter French' in 1932, and Harry and his family moved to Montpellier in the south of France. In 1940, the family returned to England as war refugees, with nothing except 'what they stood up in.' In his final years, Harry worked as a head gardener and did translations of books from several languages, including Italian and German. He died in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, in 1953, where his granddaughter still lives. Other grandchildren (by his first marriage) live in County Cork.
More books by Harry Thompson Russell
More books by Eric Fraser