Sir Arthur Foulkes’ Tribute to P. Anthony White
In 1682 John Sheffield, an English soldier, nobleman, adventurer, politician and poet, wrote a fairly long poem entitled Essay on Poetry. Centuries later, the opening lines of that work used to be carried frequently by Time Magazine as a filler. It goes like this:
“Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.”
Paul Anthony White was many things, but above all he was a writer, devoted to the art with a passion approaching divine addiction.
As a fellow practitioner of the writer’s art, I enjoyed a friendship with Anthony better measured in decades rather than years, and I was privileged from time to time to collaborate with him in the political arena.
Everyone who is serious about the art of writing must also be a reader, a lover of language, with an insatiable appetite for literature. Anthony was all of that. He was well-read from the ancient classics to the modern masters.
His restless love affair with writing drove him to test his skills in every genre. He was attracted to wherever there were writers or a printing press: from The Herald to The Tribune to The Guardian to Punch.
He was at various times reporter, feature writer, publisher, political polemicist, speech-writer, poet and playwright.
But I believe he made his greatest contribution to Bahamian letters as a story-teller. He was a most talented short story writer, and his tales of Over-the-Hill — and in particular his beloved Grants Town – were as rich as any ever written.
Like all good writers, Anthony wrote about what he knew, and he knew Grants Town, its history and its people. This knowledge was infused with a combination of a keen sense of observation and at the same time an ability to convey a sense of identification with the narrative.
I pointed out to him what I thought was a very obvious omission. Contrary to popular belief, good journalists are the best keepers of secrets in the world outside the confessional, and all of us have confidences that will go with us to the grave.
He was, indeed, a chronicler par excellence of what Thomas Gray called “the short and simple annals of the poor” in one of Anthony’s favourite poems, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
In Anthony’s expert hands these tales of Grants Town may have been short, but not so simple, and not so poor. In fact they were rich with the content of the hearts and souls of a colourful people.
I trust that it will be possible to have a collection of these wonderful stories of Grants Town published in one volume.
There was more than a little of the adventurer in Anthony. That is why he was able as a young man to seek knowledge, fortune and excitement in the great metropolis of New York.
Anthony was as colourful and quite as interesting as the people he wrote about, and with his passing The Bahamas has lost one of its finest practitioners of the writer’s art.
Joan and I extend our deepest sympathy to his children and relatives, and to the St. Agnes family to which he was so devoted. We share in your loss.
Now, may he rest in peace in “the bosom of his Father and his God”.
By: Sir Arthur Foulkes
Mr White was one of the 40 people included in the original “Bahamian Collection” a series of fine art portraits of Bahamians that were exhibited at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), as part of the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Bahamas. The collection is the first body of work resulting from the Bahamian Project, a three-year initiative sponsored by the NAGB and Popopstudios.
For more information in the Project, visit: www.bahamianproject.comcelebrities