Three Potters

Surfing idly, I encounter a reference to one Andrew Onderdonk, an international lawyer who visited with George Santayana (1863-1952) in the 1920s. The question that immediately entered my mind is the one I am sure occurs to you too: Is this man a descendant of the second Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania? That was Henry Onderdonk (1789-1858), who was supposedly replaced as Bishop due to a problem with alcohol. Bishop Henry’s successor, the third Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, was a mathematician and philosopher named Alonzo Potter (1800-1865), whose grandson Warwick Potter (31 October 1870-11 October 1893) was a student and close friend of Santayana’s at Harvard. Santayana wrote a very moving quartet of sonnets to him, following his early death. One sonnet is here, and posts on Santayana here. I imagine Warwick Potter would be completely forgotten now if not for Santayan’s consoling poems.

It seems that Andrew Joseph Onderdonk (1889- ?) had also been a student of Santayana’s at Harvard, and was still alive in the mid-1960s, when he offered to sell Santayana’s writing chair to journalist Joseph Epstein.

Warwick Potter’s father was Major General Robert Brown Potter (1829-1887), a Civil War general on the Union side and subject of a famous photo, taken around 1864.  The photo (below) is mainly well-known because the photographer, Mathew Brady (1822-1896), included himself in it. One would be tempted to call this action post-modernist, if painters from the renaissance onwards had not done the same. Brady’s louche posture against a tree on the right of the picture contrasts with the formality of comportment of the General, standing hatless at the centre of his behatted men, who all face him while he faces us. I wonder about the names and fates of the other soldiers in the photo.

Alonzo Potter’s first wife, and the mother of Robert Potter, was Sarah Maria Nott, the only daughter of Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866), President of Union College, Schenectady, New York, from 1804-1866.  Warwick Potter had three brothers and a half-sister: Robert Burnside Potter, Abby Potter, Austin Potter and Frances Tileston Potter. He was born on 1870-10-31 in Lemington, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne and died on 1893-10-11 in Brest, Brittany.  I find it most consoling that I am able to place Warwick Potter in his family, with both his father and paternal grandfather being identified, and help preserve his memory. He has now, for me, a local habitation and a name.

Our Glad


New South Wales tomorrow has its first premier of Armenian descent, Gladys Berejiklian, leader of the Liberal Party, who is also the second woman to be premier.  Her first language was Armenian, and she only learnt English once she went to school. Her great-grandparents were apparently killed in the Ottoman genocide of Armenians in 1915.
In addition to the majority Anglo-Celts, the state of NSW has had premiers of Hungarian, Italian and American descent. Her only fellow female premier, Kristina Keneally, was born in the USA. Until recently, the Governor of NSW was the very admirable Professor Marie Bashir, who is of Lebanese descent. There was a moment in 2010 when it was women all the way up!
As far as I am aware, the only American Governor of Armenian heritage has been George Deukmejian, Governor of California from 1983-1991.
Some previous discussion of leaders from minority groups here.

Recent Reading 12

The latest in a sequence of lists of recently-read books. The books are listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recently-read book at the top.

  • Edward Fulbrook [2016]:  Narrative Fixation in Economics. UK:  College Publications.
  • Pamela Vass [2016]:  The Power of Three:  Thomas Fowler, Devon’s Forgotten Genius. UK: Boundstone Books.
  • Charles Babbage [1835]:  On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. UK:  Charles Knight.
  • Timothy James Burke [1996]:  Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women:  Commodification, Consumption and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe. USA:  Duke University Press.
  • Petina Gappah [2016]:  Rotten Row. UK:  Faber & Faber.
  • David Wootton [2015]: The Invention of Science:  A New History of the Scientific Revolution. UK:  Penguin.
  • Joseph Wechsberg [1969]:  The Voices. USA:  Doubleday.
  • Karl Marton [2016]:  True Believer:  Stalin’s Last American Spy. Simon & Schuster.
  • David Coltart [2016]: The Struggle Continues. Zimbabwe: Jacana Media.
  • Yudhijit Bhattacharjee [2016]:  The Spy who couldn’t Spell:  A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets. USA:  Berkley.
  • Barrie Cassidy [2016]:  The Party Thieves: The Real Story of the 2010 Election.  Australia:  Melbourne University Publishing.
  • Martin Pearce [2016]:  Spymaster:  The Life of Britain’s Most Decorated Cold War Spy and Head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. Transworld Digital.
  • Andrew P Street [2016]:  The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull, the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat. Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • Graham Freudenberg [1977]:  A Certain Grandeur:  Gough Whitlam’s Life in Politics.  Australia:Macmillan.
  • Tom Bower [1995]:  The Perfect English Spy:  Sir Dick White and the Secret War, 1935-90. UK: William Heinemann.
  • David Bohm [2013]:  On Dialogue. UK: Routledge
  • Ben Kiernan [1986]:  Burchett: Reporting the Other Side of the World. UK:  Quartet Books.
  • Wilfred Burchett [1969]:  Passport: An Autobiography.  Australia:  Thomas Nelson.
  • Robert Harris [2016]:  Conclave.  Cornerstone Digital.
  • C. A. E. Moberly [1911]:  Dulce Domun. George Moberly, His Family and Friends.  UK: John Murray.
  • Lucille Iremonger [1957]:  The Ghosts of Versailles:  Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain and their Adventure.  UK:  Faber & Faber.
  • Christopher Hollis [1958]: Along the Road to Frome. UK:  George G. Harrap.
  • Ed Balls [2016]:  Speaking Out: Lessons in Life and Politics. Cornerstone Digital.
  • Thomas Rid [2016]:  Rise of the Machines: The Lost History of Cybernetics.  UK: Scribe.
  • Joshua Rubenstein [2016]:  The Last Days of Stalin. USA:  Yale University Press.
  • Randolph Vigne [1997]:  Liberals and Apartheid: A History of the Liberal Party of South Africa, 1953-68. UK:  Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Frank Dikotter [2016]: The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1862-1976.  UK:  Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Lafcadio Hearn [1904]:  Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation.  NY, USA: Macmillan.
  • C. B. George [2015]:  The Death of Rex Nhongo. Riverrun.
  • Hannes Wessels [2010]:  PK van der Byl:  African Statesman. South Africa: 30 Degrees South Publishers.
  • Alexander Nehamas [2016]:  On Friendship. USA:  Basic Books.
  • Larry Tye [016]:  Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.  USA:  Random House.
  • Charles Cumming [2016]: A Divided Spy. USA:  HarperCollins.
  • Joseph Mazur [2016]:  Fluke.  Oneworld Publications.