Sir Wilfred Thesiger and the Charterhouse (1998)

According the following article, Wilfred Thesiger (above, left), the great travel writer and explorer, apparently expressed a desire of becoming a Brother of the Charterhouse in the final years of his life.

Thesiger is best known for two books: Arabian Sands (1959), which recounts his travels in the Empty Quarter of Arabia between 1945 and 1950 and describes the vanishing way of life of the Bedu; and The Marsh Arabs (1964), an account of the Madan, the indigenous people of the marshlands of southern Iraq.

Arabian Sands established Thesiger’s reputation as a master of terse, declarative prose. It is considered a masterpiece of 20th century travel writing by some readers.

Published in The Sunday Telegraph on May 17, 1998:

Exploring days are never done.

Sir Wilfred Thesiger, the renowned explorer, is reeling from a terrible snub.

Some time ago the old boy visited the Charterhouse, a gentleman’s retreat in Smithfield, London. The 87-year-old explorer had lunch, met the other residents, or “brothers” as they are known, and informed them he would be delighted to end his days in one of the residence’s smart apartments.

But now, I can disclose , this is not to be. The reason? He has been told he’s too old. “Sir Wilfred seemed to think that he was coming here but that was a misunderstanding on his part,” Colonel Dudding, the Charterhouse registrar, tells me. “We’re an almshouse, not a nursing home.” The 43 Charterhouse residents, among them the novelist Simon Raven, had no say in the decision, although most of them were looking forward to Sir William’s arrival. But the good news is that the explorer’s travelling days will now recommence. “They won’t have me,” he says sadly, “so I’m going to Orford House instead.” Its location: “Purley.”





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