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Martindale and a family scandal

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By Bystander

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society publication that pharmacists know simply as Martindale takes its name from its original compiler, the Victorian pharmacist William Martindale, whose Extra Pharmacopoeia was first published 130 years ago.

Martindale owned a pharmacy in New Cavendish Street and lived comfortably in the heart of the capital’s “medical quarter” in a large Devonshire Street house. But his genteel way of life was rocked by a family scandal.

Martindale had a daughter, Elsie, who at a young age was sent to boarding school. There she befriended an older pupil, Ford Hermann Hueffer, who was a grandson of the pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown. The two would regularly play each other at chess and go together to concerts and the theatre.

As the youngsters reached adolescence, their friendship blossomed into a romance. This troubled the conservative Dr Martindale, partly because Ford’s family were bohemian socialists and partly because Elsie’s sister Mary had also developed an infatuation with the youth.

In 1894, Martindale decided to put both daughters out of harm’s way by sending them off by train to stay at his country home in Winchelsea on the Sussex coast. But at a stop on the way the 17-year-old Elsie got off the train, returned to London and eloped with the 20-year-old Ford.

After some turmoil, Martindale was reconciled with Ford and the young married couple returned to live in Winchelsea, where Ford and Elsie had two daughters. But the marriage was unhappy and further scandal arose when Ford began an affair with Mary.

The marriage effectively ended in 1908, but messy legal proceedings broke down and the divorce was never finalised.

The name Ford Hueffer may not ring any bells, but you may well know him as Ford Madox Ford, a pen-name he adopted in honour of his grandfather. Ford became a celebrated novelist, poet and critic, and his 1915 novel ‘The good soldier’ has been described as a stylistically perfect masterpiece and one of the best novels ever. However, its central theme of an adulterous affair would not have gone down well with the Martindale family.

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