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This article is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.

Apollinaire & Annie Playden David Arkell

Landor Road, Clapham, today, is a quiet street. It does not look as if poets try to break down the front doors too often. . . It is enlivened, though, at certain hours, by the girls of the Italia Conti Stage School, who include Beryl Bainbridge's talented daughter. No. 75 (the home of Annie Playden) is one of a long row of houses all exactly the same; each has half a dozen steps leading up to a porch and bay-windowed living room, with two storeys above and a basement below. . . .

But to begin at the beginning, Apollinaire and Annie Playden were both born a hundred years ago, in 1880; and their lives did not converge until that summer of 1901 in Paris. Annie was English governess to Gabrielle, the daughter of a German-born widow, the Vicomtesse de Milhau, living at 32 Rue Chalgrin, just off the fashionable Avenue du Bois. One day a Pole named Guillaume de Kostrowitzky was engaged to give Gabrielle French lessons, and on 22 August 1901 the whole household set off for the Rhineland, Annie and Gabrielle going by train with the Vicomtesse's mother Mme Hölterhoff, while 'Kostro' travelled with the Vicomtesse herself in her De DionBouton car.

Kostro in the Rhineland found himself the only man among five women, the fifth being Mme Hölterhoff's sister Anna von Fisenne. His life during the next year was to centre round the three family residences situated south of Bonn: (1) ...

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