Author: Harry Graham
Description: Harry Graham was the second son of Sir Henry Graham, KCB (1842–1930), Clerk of the Parliaments, and his first wife, Lady Edith Elizabeth Gathorne-Hardy, who died two weeks after Harry’s birth. His elder brother Ronald was in the diplomatic service, becoming Ambassador to Italy from 1921 to 1933.
Graham was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and he joined the Coldstream Guards in 1893. From 1898 to 1901 and again between 1902 and 1904 he served as aide-de-camp to Lord Minto, the Governor-General of Canada. In the intervening year, he served in the Boer War, later publishing ‘Ballads of the Boer War’ in 1902.
His first book ‘Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes’, written and illustrated by himself, was published under the pseudonymn Col. D Streamer in 1899. The verses were described by ‘The Times’ in an editorial that compared him to Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and W. S. Gilbert as “that enchanted world where there are no values nor standards of conduct or feeling, and where the plainest sense is the plainest nonsense”.
In 1900 he kept a journal of his trip with Minto across Canada to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon. Called ‘Across Canada to the Klondyke’, he later presented the manuscript to Minto. It was published posthumously under that title in 1984.
Graham retired from the army in 1904, and became private secretary to the former Prime Minister, Lord Rosebery, from 1904 to 1906.
He was at one time engaged to American actress Ethel Barrymore but the engagement was broken off and he married Dorothy Villiers in 1910, and they had one daughter, Virginia Graham (1910–1993), who followed in her father’s footsteps as a writer, contributing many articles to ‘Punch’.
After ‘Ruthless Rhymes’ he began writing seriously, beginning with ‘Little Miss Nobody’ in 1901 and his first published works all appeared during his military career. He became a full-time writer in 1906, then being known as a journalist and author of light verse, popular fiction and history, such as ‘A Group of Scottish Women’ (1908).
In 1914 on the outbreak of World War I he rejoined the Coldstream Guards and served in France in the 40th and 5th divisions. During World War I he also wrote lyrics for English operettas and musical comedies, including ‘Tina’ (1915), ‘Sybil’ (1916), the 1917 hit operetta ‘The Maid of the Mountains’ and ‘A Southern Maid’ (1920), and English adaptations of European operettas such as ‘Whirled into Happiness’ (1922), ‘Madame Pompadour’ (1923), ‘The Land of Smiles’ (1931) and many others.
Perhaps his best known lyrics were “You are my heart’s delight”, his English version of “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz”, from ‘The Land of Smiles’, composed by Franz Lehár and made famous by the popular tenor Richard Tauber, and “Goodbye”, from his English adaptation of ‘The White Horse Inn’ (1931). The song later achieved great popularity as sung by Josef Locke.
He died of cancer, aged 61, in London in October 1936 and a memorial service was held at St Martin in the Fields. His work was said to have been an influence on one of England’s greatest humourists, P. G. Wodehouse.
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