The Crabtree Foundation - Australian Chapter

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Crabtrove Project


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Recent News:
- UCL Chapter Orations 1954-2003 now online
- The Vatican Letter
- Crabtree's Australian CV
- Crabtree's Combined UCL-Australian CV

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2022 Oration The 2022 Dinner and Oration took place on Wednesday, 16 February at the Foundation's new venue: the Melbourne Athenaeum Club, 87 Collins Street, Melbourne.

The Orator for 2022 was Dr Richard Travers, who revealed further intriguing aspects of Crabtree's life in his oration:

Crabtree and his Violon d'Ingres.

J-A-D Ingres was a French artist who played his violin for relaxation when he should have been painting. For Joseph Crabtree real or royal tennis, as played by Henry VIII at Hampton Court, provided the necessary break from his own many intellectual pursuits. His rudimentary knowledge of the game was developed in Orléans where he worked for many years as a négociant with the firm of Crabtree & Hillier. His experiences here, and in Geneva in the summer of 1816, provide the basis of this oration.

Dr Travers' scholarship has shone new light on hitherto unexplained events in Crabtree's life. For example, a diary note about the loss of his balls, which previous scholars assumed referred a possible castration, has now been linked to the theft of tennis impedimenta.

Richard Travers is a semi-retired physician and he has played real tennis in Melbourne for nearly forty years. Among his many publications on the history of the game are books on the tennis courts in Lyon (2012), Geneva (2020), Hobart (2021) and Orléans (2022): there is nothing like Covid-19 for getting one to finish projects! In recognition of his literary contribution to the game he was awarded the George Plimpton Prize by the United States Court Tennis Association in 2019.

The Crabtrove Project, which was launched at the 2021 Annual Dinner and Oration, aimed to capture the personalities and stories of Elders past and present in order to enrich the history of the Australian Chapter of the Crabtree Foundation. Following the Oration, the initial collection of stories was officially launched on the Foundation's website.
"To the immortal memory"

"Much was known about Joseph Crabtree, poet and polymath, in the nineteenth century; much was forgotten or deliberately obscured in the twentieth century - until 1951. In that year it happened that, at one of Professor Hugh Smith's weekly seminars for scholars of all disciplines or none, two or three of those present discovered a common interest in the life and work of the extraordinary great man, Joseph Crabtree. This interest grew and intensified until Hugh Smith and others at University College London were inspired to set up the Crabtree Foundation at the College."
(from the Prolegomenon to Volume 1 of the Collected Orations of the Crabtree Foundation)

On 17 February 1954 Professor James Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at UCL, delivered the oration entitled "Homage to Crabtree". The meeting was presided over by Professor Hugh Smith, Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at UCL, and twenty-four scholars were present.

This was the inaugural meeting of the Foundation which ever since has been dedicated to researching and publicising the life and work of Joseph Crabtree (1754-1854). Crabtree's achievements had been grievously overlooked, misinterpreted, occasionally traduced and in some cases quite deliberately suppressed, leading to a situation amounting, in Professor Sutherland's words, "almost to a conspiracy of silence". The traduction continues to the present day, as can be seen by the deletion in late 2014 of the Wikipedia entry on Crabtree, which had been compiled by scholars in order to reveal his contributions to the wider community.

Since that inaugural meeting the Foundation has now expanded to over 400 members, or more correctly "Scholars", in the first President's words, "scattered as they are over the face of the world", who have established chapters in Australia, Italy and Southern Africa. Each chapter typically meets annually on the Wednesday closest to Saint Valentine's Day, the day of Crabtree's birth, for a dinner and an oration by a distinguished scholar on some hitherto undiscovered aspect of Crabtree's career and genius. Their findings have established the international scope and diversity of Crabtree's life and achievements.

The Australian Chapter was formed in Melbourne in 1975 at a dinner arranged by the late Professor Arthur Brown to honour Bryan Bennett, a fellow Orator of the Parent Foundation. Also believed to be at the dinner were Richard Belshaw, Keith Bennetts, Don Charlwood, Pat Kilbride and Gordon Taylor; all future Orators. Each year since then the Chapter has celebrated Crabtree's birth with a dinner and oration.

Initially the Chapter met at the Club at Monash University, and in 2010 moved its dinner and oration to the aptly-named Savage Club in the City.

(Website Contact: Dr Jim Breen)