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Let some reflect, some glimmer of my mind

Recall the passage of my little day.

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"As you know, here in Corfu nothing is ever done the correct way. Everyone starts out with the ... er ... best intentions, but something always seems to go wrong. When the Greek king visited the island some years ago the .... er .... climax of his tour was to be a ... er ... sort of stage show ... a play. The climax of the the drama was the Battle of Thermopolyae, and, as the curtain fell, the Greek Army was supposed to drive ... um ... the Persian Army triumphantly into the ... what do you call them? Ah, yes, the wings. Well it appears that the people playing the part of the Persians were a bit disgruntled at the thought of having to retreat in front of the king, and the fact that they had to play the part of Persians also ... you know ...wrankled. It only required a little incident to set things off. Unfortunately, during the battle scene the leader of the Greek army ... um ... misjudged the distance and caught the leader of the Persian Army quite a heavy blow with his wooden sword. This, of course, was an accident. I mean to say, the poor fellow didn't mean to do it. But nevertheless it was sufficient to ... er ... inflame the Persian Army to such an extent that instead of ... er ... retreating they advanced. The centre of the stage became a milling mob of helmeted soldiers locked in mortal combat. Two of them were thrown into the orchestra pit before someone had the sense to lower the curtain. The king remarked later that he had been greatly impressed by the ... um ... realism shown in the battle scene."

One of Theodores many "fantastic but true" anecdotes.

 MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

"Theodore had and has all the best qualities of the Victorian Naturalists: insatiable interest in the world he inhabits, and that ability to illuminate any topic with his own observations and thoughts. This, coupled with a puckish sense of humour, a prodigious memory and an ability to pack forty-eight hours into twenty-four, makes up a very extraordinary man."

INTRODUCTION BY GERALD DURRELL TO ISLAND TRAILS © Theodore Stephanides 1973

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-0-Theodore Stephanides (1896 - 1983)

A Brief Life History

1896 born to Greek parents from Thessaly in India and had British and Greek nationality. Early education in India and in Bombay his family spoke English.

1907 On his fathers retirement he went to live on Corfu aged 11 where he learnt Greek properly.

1914 Serves in the Greek Army as a Gunner on the front in the northern Greek region of Macedonia and in the ensuing war against the Turks.

[Briefly Macedonia, populated by different races and cultures and with a long complicated political history, had been surrendered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire to Greece after the Balkan Wars in 1912/13. During World War 1 Bulgaria occupied the region until they capitulated in 1917. The Ottoman empire was dissolved by the Treaty of Versailles and its frontiers redrawn. This creation of a new constrained Republic of Turkey,  by partitioning, from which Greece gained, led to more fighting between the two countries.]

He should not have been killed at all;

But fate just gave her head a shake

and murmured "Clerical Mistake!"

CITIES OF THE MIND © Theodore Stephanides 1969

1925 Poems by 19th Century Poet Kostes Palamas (Theodore was to describe him as "perhaps the greatest poet that modern Greece has yet produced" in 1973) selected and rendered into English. Co-author.

1926 Modern Greek Poems. Co-author.

1929 Studied Medicine in Paris

1930 Return to Corfu to establish the island's first X-ray unit. Shortly afterwards married Mary Alexander a young woman of English and Greek parentage and the granddaughter of a former British Consul.

"Though Theo was a doctor he was never well off, mainly because much of his work he did free of charge, and he and his Wife lived in the same rented house in Corfu Town throughout the period of their stay on the island."

GERALD DURRELL THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY © Douglas Botting 1999

1933 Corfu Health Authorities asked him to prepare a report on the principal localities where anti-malarial measures would be necessary "before the beginning of hot weather". This necessitated travelling around Corfu carrying out field work.

[Mosquito borne malaria had a long history in Greece. In 1942, for example, it has been estimated that half the population were infected. In the end a campaign using DDT was successful, although possibly because the particular mosquito involved was a house-bound type which was easily attacked. Attempts to use natural predators have never been very successful because they do not eat enough mosquitoes. A common fish in Corfu rivers, ponds, streams and marshes is the Central American Mosquito-fish (Gambia affinis) which was introduced before and after World War 11 to eat mosquito larvae. Of course, even today, malaria kills millions of people worldwide each year. ]

1936 Aged 40, meets Gerald Durrell, (and his family) on Corfu - both exploring the world of natural history together. This experience and many others is later to be related by Gerald Durrell in "My Family and Other Animals".

... I would go down and ask George if he knew what this mysterious beast was. Calling Roger, who was busily trying to uproot an olive-tree, I set off at a brisk trot.

I arrived at George's villa out of breath, bursting with suppressed excitement, gave a perfunctory knock at the door; and dashed in. Only then did I realize he had company. Seated in a chair near him was a figure which, at first glance, I decided must be George's brother, for he also wore a beard. He was, however, in contrast to George, immaculately dressed in a grey flannel suit with waistcoat, a spotless white shirt, a tasteful but sombre tie, and large, solid, highly polished boots. I paused on the threshold, embarrassed, while George surveyed me sardonically.

'Good evening,' he greeted me. 'From the joyful speed of your entry I take it that you have not come for a little extra tuition.'

I apologised for the intrusion, and then told George about the curious nests I had found.

'Thank heavens you're here, Theodore,' he said to his bearded companion. 'I shall now be able to hand the problem over to expert hands.'

'Hardly an expert...' mumbled the man called Theodore, deprecatingly.

'Gerry, this is Doctor Theodore Stephanides,' said George. 'He is an expert on practically everything you care to mention. And what you don't mention, he does. He, like you, is an eccentric nature-lover. Theodore, this is Gerry Durrell.'

I said how do you do, politely, but to my surprise the bearded man rose to his feet, stepped briskly across the room, and held out a large white hand.

'Very pleased to meet you,' he said, apparently addressing his beard, and gave me a quick, shy glance from twinkling blue eyes.

I shook his hand and said I was very pleased to meet him, too. Then we stood in awkward silence, while George watched us, grinning.

'Well, Theodore,' he said at last, 'and what d'you think produced these strange secret passages?'

Theodore clasped his hands behind his back, lifted himself on to his toes several times, his boots squeaking protestingly, and gravely considered the floor.

'Well... er...' he said, his words coming slowly and meticulously, 'it sounds to me as though they might be the burrows of the trapdoor spider... er ... it is a species which is quite common here in Corfu that is to say, when I say common, I suppose I have found some thirty or... er... forty specimens during the time I have been here.'

'Ah,' said George, 'trapdoor spiders, eh?'

Yes,' said Theodore. 'I feel that it's more than probable that that is what they are. However, I may be mistaken.'

He rose and fell on his toes, squeaking gently, and then he shot me a keen glance.

Perhaps, if they are not too far away, we could go and verify it,' he suggested tentatively. 'I mean to say, if you have nothing better to do, and it's not too far...'

His voice trailed away on a faintly interrogative note. I said that they were only just up the hill, not really far.

'Um,' said Theodore .

'Don't let him drag you about all over the place, Theodore,' said George. 'You don't want to be galloped about the countryside.'

'No, no, not at all,' said Theodore; 'I was just about to leave, and I can easily walk that way back. It is quite a simple matter for me to... er... cut down through the olive-groves and reach Canoni.' He picked up a neat grey homburg and placed it squarely on his head. At the door he held out his hand and shook George's briefly.

'Thank you for a delightful tea,' he said, and stumped gravely off along the path by my side.

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

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Late in 1934 George [Wilkinson] had met an apparition among the [Corfu] olive groves between Analypsis and Kanoni; a distinguished-looking man with a pointed blond beard, fastidiously dressed in a tweed suit and a grey Homburg, but carrying a knapsack festooned with entomological collecting gear and bobbing smartly up and down. He turned out to be gathering wild mushrooms. George took it for granted that this unusual specimen would speak English and started a conversation. It was Dr Theodore Stephanides, the English-Greek radiologist, man of science and a writer, who was to become a lifelong friend and mentor to two Durrells, Gerry and Larry. Stephanides had bright blue eyes, a chiselled profile that would have made Praxiteles sigh, and an improbable small giggle. Months later George brought Stephanides to the Villa Agazini one afternoon. Following a pleasant tea during which the good doctor was introduced to Louisa Durrell, to Leslie, Margo, Gerry, and to Roger, described by Stephanides as "a large & friendly black dog of rather uncertain pedigree" Stephanides recalled "what first struck me on meeting Lawrence [Durrell] was his jauntiness & self assurance (a quality I have always lacked); also his bubbling energy. He seemed to be in every corner of the little house at once, throwing off advice & suggestions like a machine gun & arranging to undertake everything from the arrangement of the furniture to the planting out of the garden." To Stephanides it seemed that there was no question in Larry's mind about his future: "From the very beginning he was determined to become a great writer. He was quite certain that he would be one and after I had known him for a short while, I was equally convinced that he would succeed in his aim."

LAWRENCE DURRELL - A BIOGRAPHY © Ian MacNiven 1996

"It was small wonder that we treated him like an oracle. The phrase 'Theo says' set the seal of authenticity on whatever item of information the person was going to vouchsafe; it was the touchstone for getting Mother's agreement to anything from the advisability of living entirely on fruit to the innocuousness of keeping scorpions in one's bedroom. Theodore was everything to everyone. With Mother he could discuss plants, particularly herbs and recipes, while keeping her supplied with reading matter from his capacious library of detective novels. With Margo he could talk of diets, exercises and the various unguents supposed to have a miraculous effect on spots, pimples and acne. He could keep pace effortlessly with any idea that entered the mercurial mind of my brother Larry, from Freud to peasant belief in vampires; while Leslie he could enlighten on the history of firearms in Greece or the winter habits of the hare. As far as I was concerned, with a hungry, questing and ignorant mind, Theodore represented a fountain of knowledge on every subject from which I drank greedily."

THE GARDEN OF THE GODS © Gerald Durrell 1978

1934 - 1938 Appears in Lawrence Durrell's  books  "Prospero's Cell" and Henry Miller's "The Colossus of Maroussi".

1938 January leaves Corfu and he takes up an appointment to carry out vital work at an anti-malarial unit founded by the Rockefeller Foundation in Salonica.

A part of us remains and that half-self

Still wanders through those well-remembered ways;

Until sometimes we feel as if we were

A shade that alternates between two lives,

A ghost inhabiting two worlds, and yet

Not fully fleshed in either ....

CITIES OF THE MIND © Theodore Stephanides 1969

1938 Cytherois stephanidesi, Thermocyclops stephanidesi, Schizopera stephanidesi discovered (These are microscopic water organisms)

Theodore Stephanides (left)

April 1941 Athens before leaving for Crete

ISLAND TRAILS © Theodore Stephanides 1973

1939 June Gerald Durrell now aged 14 leaves Corfu for England with war looming.

Dear Mrs Durrell,

It seems at last war can no longer be avoided and I think perhaps you were wise to leave Corfu. One can only hope that we can all meet in happier times when mankind has regained its senses. I will look forward to that.

Should you wish to reach me, my address is c/o The Ionian Bank, Athens.

I wish you and your family the very best of luck in the future.

Love to you all,

Yours,

Theodore

BIRDS BEASTS & RELATIVES © Gerald Durrell 1969

1939/1945 Theodore, a First World War veteran, approaching 50, serves as a Doctor in the British Army Medical Corps in Greece, Crete, Sicily and the Western Desert. He receives his first regular income since marrying.

1939/1945 Theodore's parents and many friends are killed in bombing raids on Corfu Town [including, incidentally, Gerald Durrell's Corfu tutor "Kralefsky" and his mother].

"My books, scientific collections, and most of my notes went up in smoke, together with much of the town, during the ruthless German and Italian bombing. The manuscript of my magnum opus was saved by a happy chance"

"I have never heard of it becoming a best seller in spite of the fact that it contains, among other things, a suggestive account of the sexual aberrations of the water flea Cyclops Bicuspidatus ..."

1940 Mary and Alexia  Stephanides stay with Mrs Durrell and Gerald Durrell in their home in Bournemouth during the London blitz for six months.

1946  "Climax in Crete" published.

[The background to Theodores' book was that Italy invaded Albania and then attempted to invade Greece from the North, across mountains, but was beaten back by Greek forces. German forces intervened to support the Italians resulting in Greece falling in the Spring of 1941. Theodore was evacuated by sea from Greece to Crete under continuous air attack landing at Suda in the North West. The Germans turned their attention to Crete leading to the Battle of Crete. They attacked Suda Bay and other targets and finally an invasion force spearheaded by 22,000 German paratroopers, suffering heavy losses in the process, managed to gain a toehold on an airstrip. Taking advantage of this, and the lack of Allied air cover (which was withdrawn to North Africa) they were able to reinforce their position and ultimately to overrun Crete using their devastating air superiority to conquer the Cretans and the Allied forces garrisoned there. Soldiers from many countries as far away as New Zealand and, of course, civilians lost their lives in the bitter fighting. Some of the Allied forces were able to escape (Like Theodore) by sea from the South coast to North Africa but many others could not be evacuated and were ordered to surrender. The book  is Theodores'  account of his personal experiences as a Doctor caught  up in what he called this "Cloudburst of History".

We now know, in a twist, that the Allied Command knew beforehand the date the  Germans intended to invade Crete as they had been able to intercept and break German secret codes at Station X Bletchley Park, England, but chose not to tell the garrison forces, effectively sacrificing Crete, to protect the wartime secret of the code-breaking. This explains some of Theodores' puzzlement at allied tactics.]

"An eyewitness report on the retreat of Allied forces from Crete during Second World War, by a Greek who also crops up - as a naturalist - in books by Gerald Durrell."

"The author, a doctor attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps, gives an account of his adventures during the Cretan campaign"

"The author's power of observation, his selection of significant detail, the little interludes of an interesting mind, make his personal account of that grimly and fantastically exciting campaign unforgettable; and he writes with a modesty and humour which are most attractive."

"Hell in the heavens borne on rushing wings...

Of gliding death, of death that roars and whines..."

THE GOLDEN FACE © Theodore Stephanides 1965

"Theodore, the most unwarlike of men, was bombed and machine-gunned with the rest by the Germans. Yet who but Theodore would relate how, when the Stukas dived and machine-gunned the road, he flung himself face downwards in a ditch and was 'interested to note' two species of mosquito larvae he had not previously noted"

GERALD DURRELL INTRODUCTION TO SLAND TRAILS © Theodore Stephanides 1973

1945 - 1961  Resident in London working as an Assistant Radiologist at Lambeth Hospital

1948 "A Survey of the Freshwater Biology of Corfu and of Certain Other Regions of Greece"

1951 "The Microscope and the Practical Principles of Observation".

"an invaluable book for medical students, research workers ... a very clear, simple, and thorough description of the construction of microscopes, and discusses the relative merits of the various available types ..... precise instructions ... for carrying out various tests to ensure that the instrument is being used properly... "

© Theodore Stephanides 1951

1955/6 Checks the typescript of "My Family and Other Animals" for Gerald Durrell. "There can be no greater authentication of the book than that of Theodore Stephanides, who vouched for its accuracy, strict chronology apart."

© Douglas Botting Gerald Durrell The Authorised Biography.

Theodore Stephanides collecting specimens

from a well near Athens 1963

ISLAND TRAILS © Theodore Stephanides 1973

1964 "The influence of the anti-mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis, on the natural fauna of a Corfu lakelet" [See earlier note].

1965 "The Golden Face" Poems by Theodore Stephanides

1967 Revisits Corfu for the first time after the Second World War to help Gerald Durrell make BBC's "Corfu, Garden of the Gods". "...now a white-bearded old gentleman with the bearing of a soldier and the air of a Victorian naturalist."

- © Douglas Botting Gerald Durrell The Authorised Biography

1969 "Cities of the Mind" Poems by Theodore Stephanides

"To Theodore Stephanides in gratitude for laughter and for learning."

DEDICATION OF BIRDS BEASTS & RELATIVES © Gerald Durrell 1969 

1969 "Three Poems" by 19th Century Greek poet Kostes Palamas (see earlier reference) translated by Theodore Stephanides and George Katsimbalis.

1973 "Island Trails"  by Theodore Stephanides (Introduction by Gerald Durrell). A book about the islands of Corfu and other Greek Islands around 1933 and before the Second World War. It includes much factual material and observations about life on Corfu myths, folklore, plants, animals, astronomy, microscopy, poetry, curious anecdotes and, not least, a different perspective on the Durrell family. The book also describes Theodores' cruise of the Greek Islands in the caique (a small Eastern Mediterranean sailing boat) 'Triton'.

Theodore Stephanides 1973

ISLAND TRAILS © Theodore Stephanides 1973

1978 Lawrence Durrell publishes "The Greek Islands" "Dedicated to Doctor Theodore Stephanides". Intended as a personal guide for the traveller.  Theodore's learning and influence clearly shows throughout, indeed parts of Island Trails are included almost word for word - or, as Lawrence Durrell, puts it from Provence: "Meanwhile in London Dr Theodore Stephanides, who is still very actively with us, kindly agreed to examine the text and comment upon it, which he has done with great exactness."

1982 Gerald and Lee Durrell publish "The Amateur Naturalist".

"When Gerald Durrell sent him a signed copy, his old mentor ("guide, philosopher and friend"), now living in the house of his ex-wife Mary Alexander in Kilburn, surrounded, as ever, by his books and slides, was, understandably, enthralled:

"A red letter day!" he wrote back. "How I wish that I had had such a book when I first came to Corfu in 1907 at the age of eleven."

© Douglas Botting Gerald Durrell The Authorised Biography

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"This book is for Theo my mentor and friend, without whose guidance I would have achieved nothing."

DEDICATION BY GERALD DURRELL  OF THE AMATEUR NATURALIST  © Gerald Durrell

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1983 Theodore Stephanides died on 13th April 1983.

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It seems but yesterday that I was young

With all life spread before me to unfold

An endless road to beckoning heights beyond.

.

I paused to dream beside a lily-pond,

I slept and I awoke ... and I was old -

My journey almost done. Yet in me, deep,

"This cannot be!" my ageless heart replied,

"You slept for but one night; the sun appears,

You are but one dream older from your sleep"

ISLAND TRAILS © Theodore Stephanides 1973

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-Miscellaneous

There is a Crater on the moon unofficially named Stephanides (Romer-A). It is in the South Eastern highlands of the Sea of Serenity close to the landing site of Apollo 17 the last, and appropriately, most scientific of all the 1960's U.S. moon landings.

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"LET ME NOT  SEEM TO HAVE LIVED IN VAIN"

(Last words of the Astronomer Tycho Brahe: 1546-1601)

.

Let me not seem to have lived here in vain

When darkness beckons me and I heed the call,

Let something of me, just a mote, remain

To linger where my steps no longer fall

.

Let something of me still remain behind;

A verse a cadence, to outlive the clay;

Let some reflect, some glimmer of my mind

Recall the passage of my little day

CITIES OF THE MIND © Theodore Stephanides 1969

..

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Man's little Day in haste we spend,

And, from its merry noontide, send

No glance to meet the silent end.

SYLVIE & BRUNO Lewis Carroll 1889

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-An English translation by Theodore Stephanides of "Erotokritos" by Vicenzos Kornaros was published in 1984. "Erotokritos" is a long 17th Century work originally written in Crete. It is said to be a masterpiece and has been likened to "Romeo and Juliet" with a happy ending. Its music and lyrics are still sung nowadays:-

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"Of all the gracious things upon this earth it is fair words that have the greatest worth, and he who uses them with charm and guile can cozen human eyes to weep or smile."

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