Photo credit: ADK Museum.
Estimated time and place: 1870s Isle of Wight.
I must admit, he suggested I develop a database of characters, both major and minor - months ago. But I have been so caught up in the flow of writing that I didn't want to take the time. Today is the day I plan to develop that database!
Such was the life of the Durants. William spent most of his youth in England, traveling to Norway, France, Germany and Egypt.
I am still trying to piece together the puzzle of how his family was connected to the aristocracy in England. His mother was English but not an aristo herself; indeed her father went bankrupt when she was young and moved his family to the U.S. in the early 1800s.
Yet William and his sister cavorted with numerous aristocratic families. For example, they were quite close to the Lococks. Sir Charles Brodie Locock was the son of the famous Sir Charles Locock, 1st Baronet - the accoucheur for Queen Victoria. Lately he has been in the news as one of his descendants - Nick Locock - claims his grandfather was adopted and an illegitimate son of a member of the Royal Family.
William corresponded with Sir Charles Brodie Locock, 2nd Baronet throughout his life. At one time William and his sister Ella lived on the Isle of Wight where Sir Charles had a country home - Binstead.
Ella wrote a poem for Sir Charles' brother Alfred which appears in her collection of poetry Pine Needles, or Sonnets and Songs. From my research I have found that Ella wrote to Alfred Locock asking for his advice when she was suing her brother over her inheritance.
And then there are the Napiers of Thirlestane in Scotland. The Napier clan maintains a website and I have been in correspondence with the secretary - who happens to live in the States. From my research I uncovered several letters spanning over two decades from William, 11th Lord Napier, 2nd Baron Ettrick to William West Durant. William Durant was very close to him and his brother Jack - in one letter Lord Napier refers to William as his old school friend although it is not clear to what school he is referring - Lord Napier attended Harrow and WWD did not.
Jack Napier writes William Durant asking if he plans to attend the masked ball in Brighton.
These are just a few of the famous people William West Durant mingled with over the course of his early life. While working for his father in the United States on the Adirondack Railroad, he became friends or conducted business with John Pierpont Morgan, Collis P. Huntington, Andrew Carnegie, J. Malcolm Forbes, and the Vanderbilts.
Ella, his sister maintained her own circle of close friends and writing colleagues, including Poultney Bigelow, who first visited their Camp Pine Knot in 1878 and then maintained a friendship with Ella throughout her life. He wrote to her regularly from his home at Malden-on-the-Hudson while they were both in their eighties. She was also part of the literary crowd in London in the late 1880s, cavorting with Lady Anne Thackeary Ritchie - famous for her novels and rewrites of fairy tales like Cinderella.
My first book touches on some of these famous family connections. However, as I am also concentrating on the less famous, but no less interesting 'locals' of the Adirondacks I am finding them just as, if not more, colorful, than the famous people.