Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Short Biography of Arnold Lunn

In my earlier post, I attempted to provide a link to a short biography of Arnold Lunn and a description of his collected works at Georgetown University. For some reason, the link that appears when I search his name with Google is a working link, but when I put that same link in a blog post, publish it, and then click on it, an "internal error" occurs. I don't know how to fix it, so I am simply going to paste the biography here. I won't be providing the description of his collected works, but it is worth reading as well, for they too contain some biographical information.
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The Sir Arnold Lunn Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks and related printed ephemera regarding the life and works of Sir Arnold Lunn (1888 - 1974). The papers, dating from 1896 to 1978, comprise 21 linear feet of material, arranged in fourteen boxes, consisting of five hundred and thirty-two folders.


Arnold Lunn, a noted English writer, controversialist and Catholic apologist, is also recognized as the father of modern skiing. He was born in Madras, India, on April 18, 1888, where his father, Sir Henry Lunn was a medical missionary. Later, Sir Henry Lunn acquired several hotels in Switzerland, establishing himself in the travel business. Arnold Lunn's early contact with Switzerland developed into a life long love affair with the country that became his second home.

Sir Arnold was on skis at the early age of ten, and climbed his first mountain with a nurse in 1895. In 1909, he experienced a climbing accident in Wales that resulted in a severe injury to his right leg. Despite the fact that the wound remained open for many years, and that his right leg was about three inches shorter than his left leg, Arnold Lunn continued climbing and skiing almost until the end of his life. Moreover, in 1922, he set the first modern slalom on the practice slopes at Murren. In addition, he was the founder of the Alpine Ski Club (1908) and the Kandahar Ski Club (1924), the editor of the British Ski Year Book, and the organizer of some of the most prestigious ski races in the world, such as the Anglo-Swiss University Race, the Alberg-Kandahar, the first World Championship in Downhill and Slalom Racing, the Duke of Kent's Cup, and the Lowlander Championship.

He caused Murren to become a national and international center for ski racing, and he was knighted for "services to British Skiing and Anglo-Swiss relations" in 1952. Before then, he had also become a leading authority in international skiing through his participation in the International Federation of Ski (FIS). He represented Great Britain in the FIS from 1928 to 1949, and in 1930 he drafted Downhill and Slalom racing rules and help them to be accepted by the FIS. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment in the skiing field was the acceptance and introduction of the Downhill and Slalom races into the Olympic Games in 1936.

It is not unusual then, that Arnold Lunn's literary career, began with books related to the Swiss mountains that he so loved. Indeed, his first book A Guide to Montana (1907), was written at Harrow, where he attended from 1902 to 1907. Other mountaineering and skiing books were also written at Oxford, where Arnold Lunn attended Balliol College from October 1907 to 1911. Some of his accomplishments at Oxford included being secretary of the Union, Editor of The Isis, and founder of the Oxford Mountaineering Club. In 1912 he published two more books, Oxford Mountaineering Essays and The Englishman and the Alps. In 1913, Arnold Lunn published The Harrovians, based on his own experiences at Harrow. The book was both, successful and controversial, since it broke with the romanticism traditionally associated with British school novels.

Also in 1913, Arnold Lunn married Lady Mabel (d. 1959), daughter of Rev. John Stafford Northcote and sister of the third Earl of Iddesleigh. Soon after their marriage World War I began. Arnold Lunn was not allowed to serve in the military because of his leg. However, he found a way to be useful to his country while running his father's hotel business in Switzerland. Indeed, he supervised the arrangements to accommodate British and French officers interned in Lunn hotels in Switzerland. It was during this period that Peter Lunn, Arnold's first son was born. In addition to Peter, the couple also had John Lunn and Jaqueta Lunn. In 1961, after the death of Lady Mabel Lunn, Sir Arnold married Phyllis Holt- Needham

Arnold Lunn's literary career produced numerous works and touched on a variety of fields. There were, of course, several other books on skiing and mountaineering, such as Mountains of Youth (1925) and A Century of Mountaineering (1957). But he also engaged in writing books on controversial subjects, similar to the public debates that he so often chose to take part of, with such authorities as Rev. Ronald Knox in Difficulties (1932), C.E.M. Joad in Is Christianity True? (1933), J.B.S Haldane in Science and the Supernatural (1935) and G.G. Coulton in Is the Catholic Church Anti-Social? (1946).

He became a renown Catholic convert as well as a noted Catholic author. On July 13, 1933 Arnold Lunn was received into the Catholic church by Ronald Knox. He had published books regarding religion before, including Roman Converts (1924), John Wesley (1928) and The Flight from Reason (1930). However, it was the biography of his conversion, Now I see, which introduced him as a Catholic author. Other books and articles on religion followed, including The Third Day (1945), Enigma (1957), And Yet So New (1958), and his trilogy with Garth Lean: The New Morality (1958), The Cult of Softness (1965) and Christian Counter-Attack (1969).

He was also actively involved in politics, promoting his support for Republican Spain and his condemnation of Nazism and Communism. He wrote Spanish Rehearsal (1937) and several articles regarding the Spanish Civil War. During World War II he travelled and lectured extensively as a propagandist for his country. His autobiographies were also well received by the British public, especially Memory to Memory (1956) and Unkilled for so Long (1968).

On June 2, 1974, Sir Arnold Lunn died. As his life long friend and fellow mountaineer Walter Amstutz wrote: "All things and all lives come to an end, as did the life of Arnold Lunn. Taking leave of him implies taking leave of an epoch which went with him to his grave; it was an epoch that bore very much his personal stamp. It began with what he called the golden age of skiing, the gilding of which was done by his own hand. It ended in a triumphal finish on a course which he had set himself."

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