“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

The Man Who Rescued Sun Yat-sen – The Memorial to Sir James Cantlie at Cottered

Posted: September 18th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

I recently read the autobiography of Alfred Sze, the former Chinese Ambassador to Britain (and later the USA) during the First World War and a Chinese delegate to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. It was self-published in 1962 and is a little tricky to get (some old copies here though). Among Sze’s memoirs of his time in England is his friendship with Sir James Cantlie, the Scottish surgeon who had taught medicine to Sun Yat-sen in Hong Kong and later, in 1896, helped rescue Sun from the Portland Place Chinese Legation in London where the Qing authorities were holding him kidnapped and intending to send him back to China to a probable execution. Sze and Cantlie were good friends and, after his death, Sze officially placed a memorial to Cantlie at St John’s Church in Cottered, Hertfordshire, where Cantlie was buried.Thought I’d look it up…and here it is….

cantilegraveCantie’s grave at Cottered

memorialThe memorial unveiled by Sze to Cantlie

By the way, other close friends of the Sze’s in London included Sir Adolph Tuck, the wealthy Jewish art publisher and the man who effectively invented the postcard and lived close to the Chinese legation on the imposing Park Crescent (and owned a great deal of it). Through his friendship with his near neighbours the Sze’s, Tuck became a lifelong supporter of the fledgling Chinese Republic. Additionally, the Sze’s were friends with the banker, trader and noted collector of collector of Chinese, Korean and Near Eastern art, George Eumorfopoulos, who had been born in Liverpool of refugee Greek parents. A noted Orientalist in London at the time, his collection of Oriental art grew to an enormous size, obliging him to add a two-storey museum to the back of his Chelsea house.

Alfred_Sao-ke_Sze2Alfred Sao-ke Sze

imagesSir James Cantlie

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4 Comments on “The Man Who Rescued Sun Yat-sen – The Memorial to Sir James Cantlie at Cottered”

  1. 1 Jiangbo said at 8:43 am on May 7th, 2018:

    Sir James Cantile, as claimed by one researcher (J. Y. Wong, The Origins of An Heroic Image), might have actually authored Sun Yat-sen’s first book Kidnapped in London. I haven’t read Wong’s book but I don’t believe this is true. It’s possible Cantile might have assisted Sun Yat-sen in the editing and publishing of the book in Britain in 1897 but highly unlikely he would write the entire book and Sun Yat-sen would so shamelessly claim the authorship.

  2. 2 Tim Durham said at 9:28 pm on April 29th, 2020:

    Would be good if you could correct the consistent misspelling of Sir James Cantlie’s name in this piece – particularly as it includes a photograph of his grave on which his name is clear to see! Cantile is incorrect.

  3. 3 Paul French said at 9:43 pm on April 29th, 2020:

    done – for some reason it was in my head as Cantile

  4. 4 Paul French said at 6:23 pm on June 30th, 2020:

    thanks Tim – done – appreciate you pointing out!! i’ll blame spell check – but more probably just my atrocious memory

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