Hubert William Kelley’s letters home from France during World War I are extraordinary. And that his daughter became the editor of The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France is also extraordinary. Thank you Crystal Otto and Bring on Lemons for hosting a virtual tour of this book.
About The Weeping Angel
Now, on the Centennial of World War I, Hubert Kelley’s wish is realized with the publication of The Weeping Angel, his account of the war in northern France as he lived it. Told through letters and poems, Kelley writes home to his Kansas City family with vivid descriptions of day-to-day life on the edge of the battlefield. Enlisting right after graduation from Central High, he claims to play the bugle to be accepted and proves to be a talented raconteur and observer. Although he could not play the bugle and never learned, he became the regimental poet of Company D of the Twelfth Engineers and found his true vocation as a writer.
Mary Kelley, his daughter, edited and researched this special collection of her father’s letters over the past six years. With the help of Colonel John Laird’s History of the Twelfth Engineers and research at the National WWI Museum, she has annotated the letters to show the actual path of the unit as they repaired and built light gauge railways to carry ordnance and materiel to the front lines in Cambrai, St. Mihiel and other important battlegrounds in France. Private Kelley and the Twelfth were among the first American troops in Europe, and they stayed to prepare for the Occupation for months after the Armistice of November 11, 1918. He returned to Kansas City to become a reporter for the Kansas City Star and later the editor of American Magazine in New York.
The title of the book came from The Weeping Angel (L’Ange Pleurer), a small statue poised over a tomb in Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral, carved by Nicolas Blasset in 1636. With one hand on an hourglass and the other on a skull, the angel came to symbolize the war to Kelley and the many soldiers who visited it during World War I. He wrote about it in his letters and in 1931 when he recalled one harrowing night lying in a field near Amiens with bombs falling around him. Life is brief, death is imminent.
My Review of The Weeping Angel
Hubert Williams Kelley married three times and had two children from each marriage. Mary Kelley, who compiled and edited her father’s letters and poetry while he served in France during World War I, was his only daughter. She only met him once when she was fifteen years old, but was willing to take boxes of his writings when one of her half-brothers threatened to throw them out.
From those writings, she compiled The Weeping Angel, a small volume of mostly letters he wrote to his “Dearest Mother” in 1917 to 1919. She also included a few poems and photos and a couple of articles he wrote while he worked as a reporter after the war.
One of the things I was most taken with about his writing was his attention to details. Every letter was vivid and real. So much so I felt like I was with him as he described the places he was in and his experiences there.
Of his first stay in Amiens, Somme France, in 1917 he wrote:
“The streets are very crooked and narrow – the aisle walks were made for Indians. Vehicles of every description rattle over the cobblestones – the carts of fruit venders – wheel barrows high-piled with merchandise and pushed by some sinewy little woman, dray-carts, wagons, quaint little four-wheeled cabs bearing extravagant Americans happy with Champagne. All of the buildings here are low structures of four or five stories, the windows high and the architecture square. Adobe or plaster is used on the façade and this is usually painted in shades of pink, yellow, or blue, which adds a tone of picturesque to this whole cities [sic].
“The Cathedral d’Amiens is one of the most beautiful in France…” – where he discovered the small sculpture called The Weeping Angel. He took a liking to this statue and visited it every time he was in Amiens for weekend getaways from the front, and saw it for the last time in 1918. He only kept one memento from his travels – a gray photograph of the stone cherub that he framed and hung on the wall of his home.
The sadness of its expression gripped him such that he wrote “A Memory of Amiens” in March 29, 1931 for the Kansas City Star, describing it after Amiens had been badly ravaged:
“It seemed to me its recess was darker than ever before. It seemed to me that its beautiful head was bowed lower, that the little hands of stone more tightly clutched the hour glass and the skull, as if to stay time and death.”
From his writings Mary Kelly became acquainted with the father she only met once while he was alive. It became evident to her that his war experiences had a great impact on the rest of his life. However, his regular letter writing, that began shortly after he graduated from high school, greatly prepared him for a career as a war correspondent during World War II, a news reporter for the Kansas City Star, a writer and editor for Crowell Collier Publications, and the editor of the American Magazine.
Hubert Williams Kelley’s writing is worth reading. Thank you, Mary Kelley, for sharing it.
Mary Kelley, editor of The Weeping Angel, is a former Broadway theater manager, non-profit arts administrator and consultant with The Field Organization, LLC. She has written in the genres of memoir and fiction. This is her first published book. She lives in Somerville MA.
Genre: Memoir / Non-Fiction / Historical
Paperback: 139 pages
Publisher: Willow Avenue Books (2016)
WOW Tour Schedule for Mary Kelley’s The Weeping Angel (Even though this is the last stop, you might want to check back and read other’s opinions of this book.)
February 1st @ Bring on Lemons
Launch Day Post and Giveaway: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, February 8th @11am PST with Donna Seebo
Tune in for this live broadcast and hear an enlightening interview between radio host Donna Seebo and Mary Kelley. This is your chance to hear from Mary herself as she talks about The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France. http://delphiinternational.com/
Thursday, February 23rd @ 1-2pm EST with Frankie Picasso
You won’t want to miss today’s live radio show with Frankie Picasso as listeners go back in time to World War I France as they hear from Mary Kelley and learn more about her recent book The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France.
Wednesday, March 8th @ Bring On Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Wisconsin history buff, mother, caregiver, and autism advocate Michelle DelPonte shares her thoughts after reading Mary Kelley’s book The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France. Stop by to learn more! http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Monday, March 6th with Kathleen Pooler @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Mary Kelley stops by Kathleen Pooler’s, Memoir Writer’s Journey, and shares a guest post with readers. This is a great opportunity to learn more from Mary and find out about her unique book The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France. http://krpooler.com/
Tuesday, March 21st @ Bring On Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto talks more about The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France in her 5 star review of this unique book by Mary Kelley. Don’t miss this blog stop!
Tuesday, March 28th @ 5:30pm EST with Cyrus Webb
“Cyrus Webb Presents” is the place where host Cyrus Webb introduces topics and guests that matter to you and today he is chatting live with Mary Kelley about her book The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France. Don’t miss this show! www.blogtalkradio.com/cyruswebbpresents.
Friday, March 31st with Madeline Sharples @ Choices
Author and memoirist Madeline Sharples shares her thoughts after reading The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France by Mary Kelley. This insightful review is one you won’t want to miss! http://madelinesharples.com/
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