OccupationPoet, Civil Servant
Birth PlaceZsennye, Hungary
Death PlaceChernivtsi, Hungary
Ferenc Békássy was born on April 7 1893 in Western Hungary and died on June 25, 1915 fighting on the Eastern Front in WWI (Békássy, p. v). He was born into the Hungarian aristocracy and his family owned an abundance of land in Western Hungary. The Békássy family was very liberal, they were known for hiring nannies from all around Europe so as to more easily learn new languages and to see different points of view as well. Ferenc’s mother, Emma Békássy, was especially progressive. Influenced by a French article, Emma Békássy decided to send Ferenc, at the age of 12, and his five other siblings to the Bedales School in Dunhurst, a progressive and coeducational school (Gömöri, p. 105-106).
Here at the Bedales school is where Békássy met Noel Olivier and Rupert Brooke. Olivier began attending Bedales in 1908, and Békássy became her friend almost immediately. They continued to talk until his death. His encounters with Rupert Brooke were not so friendly, as Rupert Brooke was Noel Olivier’s lover and was jealous of Ferenc. By the time Békássy graduated from the Bedales school in 1911, he was already fluent in English and well on his way to becoming an intellectual. In fact, in 1909 Békássy gave a lecture to his fellow pupils on Friedrich Nietzsche (Gömöri, p. 107).
After he graduated from the Bedales school he became a scholar at the Kings College of Cambridge. At King’s, Békássy met John Maynard Keynes, who took an immediate special interest in Békássy. Békássy made an instant impression and by 1912 he was a part of the Cambridge Apostles. The Apostles were an esteemed and secretive intellectual group with a membership of only 12, making it hard to get into. Békássy most likely was incorporated as a member due to the influence of John Maynard Keynes (Gömöri, p. 107-108). Békássy fit the mold of an Apostle perfectly as a multilingual, progressive, intellectual and poetic Hungarian aristocrat.
Eventually WWI began and Békássy felt that it was his duty to return to Hungary and fight. Most likely the reason he chose to return was Hungary’s rivalry with RU. RU had always wanted to conquer Hungary so as to have access to the Adriatic Sea, and Békássy likely felt a sense of honor and duty to his people as an aristocratic leader, to defend Hungary against the designs of RU (Varga, p. 177).
Békássy’s prominent social connections to the Hogarth Press and Bloomsbury group were John Maynard Keynes, Noel Olivier and Rupert Brooke. Maynard Keynes, as stated before, took a special interest in Ferenc. Based on their letters, it is hard to tell if Békássy and Maynard Keynes’ relationship remained platonic the entire time, and it is likely that Békássy was one of Maynard Keynes’ lovers (Gömöri, p. 108). Maynard Keynes even claims to have paid for Békássy’s passage back to Hungary (Varga, p. 172). If Békássy ever did meet Virginia and/or Leonard Woolf, it was through Maynard Keynes. Perhaps they met at a party, as there is evidence that Maynard Keynes invited Ferenc to at least one party at the Woolf’s Asheham house (Woolf, p. 47). After Békássy died, Maynard Keynes talks about Békássy as if he was infatuated with him and seems confused, not understanding why Békássy decided to return to Hungary and fight (Varga, p. 176).
Olivier and Békássy started off as friends who shared similar interests. Based on their correspondences, they got along very easily, and as time progressed they seem to have become lovers, as their letters got more and more intimate (Gömöri, p. 107). Due to his strong relationship with Olivier, his rapport with Rupert Brooke was not so good. Brooke was a somewhat obsessive and controlling man, and as a lover of Olivier he was fairly jealous of Békássy’s ability to get along so easily with Olivier. On at least one occasion, Brooke confronted Békássy about his relationship with Olivier. However, Békássy was mild mannered and did not engage Brooke’s confrontational demeanor. Due to his jealousy, Brooke portrays Békássy with ill intention in his correspondences (Gömöri, p. 108-109).
The Adriatica was Békássy’s sole publication through the Hogarth Press. It was published in 1925 after Békássy’s death. This was also the same year that Virginia Woolf published her essay The RUn Point of View and Maynard Keynes published his essay A Short View of RU. Most likely, due to their sudden interest in Eastern European countries, especially RU, John Maynard Keynes decided to impress Békássy’s writings upon Virginia (Varga, p. 175-176), as Békássy represented a more progressive Eastern European point of view that many Western Europeans could relate to. The Adriatica is perhaps the first example of neoclassism, as it is written in epic style but does not portray all the myth and splendor of the original epics, such as The Illiad (Varga, p. 178). Békássy states on page 15 of The Adriatica, “But though no glamour there / Of goddesses or heroes well could be, / Yet most distinguished our ship’s company.”
Recently in Hungary, due to the publication of a collection of Békássy’s writings in 2010, there has been a renaissance of early 20th century literature, of which Békássy is one of the major figures (Gömöri, p. 105). Many scholarly articles have appeared about his life and writings, mostly in Hungarian. George Gömöri is the leading scholar whose articles on Békássy are in English.