COMPANION

Maurice Baring

Maurice Baring (1874–1945), dramatist, poet, novelist, essayist, travel writer and war correspondent. He was a pupil of Alexander.

Life

He started out as a diplomat, serving in Paris, Copenhagen and Rome, but he resigned from the Foreign Office to cover the Russo-Japanese war for the Morning Post in 1904. At the start of World War I he joined the Royal Flying Corps, and later served in the Royal Air Force. He received an OBE in 1918. In the 1920s he enjoyed success as a dramatist and novelist. He was a prolific and popular author and wrote over fifty books, countless articles and news pieces. His fiction was described as inoffensive and cordial but is largely forgotten today.

Lessons with Alexander

Baring suffered from chronic illness during the last years of his life; for the final fifteen years of his life he was debilitated by Parkinson's Disease (‘Paralysis Agitans’), and he may have tried the Alexander Technique because orthodox medicine could not help him. He had lessons every day for several weeks in 1937.

Maurice Baring was recommended Alexander by G. B. Shaw through an intermediary. Maurice said of Alexander: ‘I think his theories are sound, and I agree with Bernard Shaw in thinking him a genius.’[1] According to his biographer, Emma Letley, Baring wrote to H. G. Wells that ‘Alexander seemed to be doing him some good although he was far from certain. He thought that Alexander had stumbled up against some basic truths, despite the fact that he was a very bad teacher, always liable to go off at a tangent and far from good at explaining.’ Alexander’s discoveries were essentially common sense:

... namely that if you control the head you control the body, that if you throw your head back you lose your balance, that if you put your head forward and up you achieve the poise of a Greek statue or a Zulu; that if you use the strongest muscles to do the heaviest work you will find everything easier; that if you sit down and get up and walk doing this you will be more comfortable than if you slouch and crouch. I think then he has further discovered that most people when they think they are applying these rules are really doing the opposite, and to counteract this he has invented a technique of inhibitions which I think is quite successful when properly executed.[2]

He also wrote:

He [Alexander] has been successful with me in getting rid of the superficial tremors from a spasmodic internal throbbing in the chest. This comes on worse when I lie down and especially at night. It began to be much worse after my first four lessons from Alexander and has practically been getting worse all the time.[3]

However, he was keen ‘not to give other people the impression that I was ungrateful for what he [Alexander] had done to me or that I thought his work negligible.’ And: ‘I did not mention the fact, talking of his treatment of me, that before I had lessons from him I could not get out of a chair, I could not walk across a room, and it took two people to haul me out of a taxi. That I can do these things and that I can hold a pencil or pen I owe to him.’[4]

As his Parkinson’s got worse, he wrote in a letter in November 1938:

Before I went to Alexander I should have pinned him down and instead of being content with the vague hope that he could do me some good, I should have said, ‘Have you ever cured anybody of this?’ And I think the answer would have been in the negative.[5]

Maurice Baring *27 April 1874 – †14 December 1945.

References

[1] Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe by Emma Letley (Constable, 1991), p. 228.
[2] Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe by Emma Letley (Constable, 1991), p. 229.
[3] Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe by Emma Letley (Constable, 1991), p. 230.
[4] Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe by Emma Letley (Constable, 1991), p. 230.
[5] Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe by Emma Letley (Constable, 1991), p. 231.