By Julie Hankey
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Extra info for A Passion for Egypt: Arthur Weigall, Tutankhamun and the 'Curse of the Pharaohs'
Mimi must have been passing the word among her friends and connections. One of the more unlikely of these was an erstwhile violinist in the band at the old Manchester missionary meetings, Ernest Crewdson of Messrs Jones, Crewdson and Yonatt, Chartered Accountants. This person now came forward with an offer to take Weigall into the London office of his firm, and it was settled that he should be coached for the Preliminary examination. In the January of 1898, when he was just turned seventeen, he managed, to his surprise, ‘to pass this rather stiff examination with credit’: I am sure I don’t know how I did it, for my brain was full of other things … Beside a mass of Egyptological literature, I worked through a great many histories; I taught myself the rudiments of Coptic, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew; I read a lot of Huxley, Herbert Spencer and other great thinkers; and I devoured a mass of books on Biblical criticism.
That spring, both he and Geanie caught smallpox, and when their quarantine was at last over, Mimi took them back to England. It was intended that he should return in the summer and enter the University of Leipzig, but in the meanwhile he obtained an introduction to Flinders Petrie. Within a few weeks he had been offered and had accepted the post of assistant to the great man, and with that ended all idea of a degree, let alone of expanding his soul at leisure. 25 Chapter 4 Egypt ‘like a house on fire’ 1901–1904 Matthew William Flinders Petrie was the first exponent of scientific method in archaeology.
But it was a short crammer’s course, for all was over by the autumn of that year, 1899. One day he found a note to her from another man, and then his mother found a letter to Weigall from her. There were tears, accusations and admissions, a whiff of possible scandal. In an agony of mind and heart, at least on Weigall’s side, they said their last goodbyes. For weeks he was ill, and couldn’t work, and soon after he left the City for good. He never saw her again, and at the time of writing his memoir she was dead.