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BARBICAN LIFE


Barbican resident Ronald Millar writes here about John Maynard Keynes’ younger brother – an eminent surgeon at Barts Hospital and famous in his own right as a pioneer in breast cancer treatment


Life-size Bronze of Sir


Geoffrey Keynes. There are copies at The Royal College of Surgeons, the National Portrait Gallery, The Royal College of Physicians and in the possession of the Keynes family.


eoffrey (1887-1982), younger brother of economist John Maynard Keynes, was a surgeon for


Sir Geoffrey Keynes G


part of his life and a bibliographer extraordinaire for most of it. His professional career was entirely at Bart’s, interrupted by voluntary service in the RAMC in War 1, and by a War 2 appointment as Consultant Surgeon to the RAF. Although he had a particular interest in thyroid disease, it was his promotion of simple mastectomy plus radium therapy (later, radiotherapy) for breast cancer – a rejection of the “mutilating” radical operation - which gained him a wide reputation, and some early hostility.


For ten years, he assisted the renowned Lord Moynihan (of Leeds) in his London private practice. After his formal retirement in 1951, as Senior Surgeon Emeritus, his uniquely productive life as a literary scholar continued for a further forty years. His autobiography, “The Gates of Memory”, an immense feat of memory and diary-keeping”, was published near the end of his long life.


At Rugby school, an interest in


history, book-collecting and poetry was stimulated by his close friendship with Rupert Brooke, whom he hero-worshipped. In a preamble to “The Poetical Works of Rupert Brooke”, Geoffrey writes that Brooke: ”delighted to declaim long passages (of Swinburne) during our country walks round


10 Rugby.”


But Brooke was a troubled young man, hence: ”few of his friends knew the heights and the depths of the emotional crises through which he passed.” Geoffrey did, one surmises. He was to be literary executor of the poet’s estate. Admitting to twice- refused proposals to Ka (Catherine) Cox, he seemed oddly unaware of her emotional involvement with Brooke. His marriage, at age 30, was to a great- granddaughter of Charles Darwin. “The Gates of Memory” relates Keynes’ compilation of


bibliographies (lists of works) of famous writers and poets, many of whose books were in his private collection. Whereas in hospital he seemed to stand in his own light, lacking charm and warmth (not required for a surgical “chief”!), his search for bibliographic reference sources – often by his favoured direct approach – must have required more than persuasion. From a 1914 bibliography of John Donne to a 1980 catalogue of Edward Gibbon’s Library, there are approaching 50 bound volumes, with his forewords or notes. Bibliographic subjects include Jane


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