[ Stradivarius violin of G. H. L. Parsons of Streatham. ] Insurance documents and correspondence relating to the loan of the wartime instrument to violinist Mary Law [ Mrs. H. S. Kingdon ].
The owner of the violin in question, G. H. L. Parsons, had made his fortune with the firm Ashton & Parsons, wholesale chemists, also having an interest in the opticians Dollonds, and on his death was worth £127, 335 19s 8d. The woman to whom he lent the violin, Mary Law, made a number of recordings for Zonophone, and toured Australia in 1915, with the Melbourne Argus reporting the arrival of 'The Notable English Violinist. Miss Law has been honoured with Royal Commands galore, and can claim the distinction of having played before most Members of the Royal Family.' In the same year as the Australian tour, Law married H. S. Kingdon, theatrical agent of South African extraction, who on his death as a 'humble clerk' was described as a man 'who made and lost three fortunes and once controlled property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds'. She died of septic pneumonia on 1 April 1919, her three-year-old son dying a few days later (see Times, 1, 3 and 7 April 1919).The collection consists of seventeen items, in good overall condition, lightly aged and worn. Items One to Four: Two insurance policies 'On a Violin by Antonio Stradivari, the property of the Insured and lent to Miss Mary Law', both issued by the Fine Art & General Insurance Company, Ltd., London. 26 January 1910 and 1 January 1912. Each 1p., folio, and signed by a director. Both insuring the instrument for £750. With two receipts, both for £6 5s paid by Parsons on 20 January 1910, one from the insurers and the other from Hart and Son, Violin Dealers & Manufacturers. Items Five to Seven: Insurance policy from the same company (Fine Art & General Insurance Company, Ltd), headed 'Government Aircraft Insurance', 8 April 1918, for £750, 'On a Violin by A. Stradivari contained in the building No. 28 Wardour Street, London, W.' With receipts from the insurance company and Harts, 8 and 23 April 1918 respectively, for the 18s 9d premium, 'To insurance against aircraft as per receipt'. Item Eight: Autograph Copy of undated letter from Parsons to Mary Law, on his letterhead. Aldrington, Streatham Park: 'It is really not Mrs. Parsons' or my own intention for you to pay the first years instalment of insurance on violin but my solicitor who drew up the agreement of loan thought it better that you should do so as a matter of principle […] In concluding we both wish you every success & trust if you are not already at the top of the tree of your profession you will soon be so'. Item Nine: Undated ALS from 'Mary Law' to Parsons: 'I do not know how to thank you enough for your great kindness but I hope you know how very very grateful I am. I have had a new bridge fitted at Hills, and the violin sounds most beautiful now. I should like to bring [it] to you soon, so that you can hear it.' Item Ten: TLS from 'Mary Law' to Parsons, 28 January 1910, from 39 Babbington Road, Streatham, formalising the loan of the violin (drawn up by Parsons' solicitor Elder, who describes it in his TNS above as the 'letter which Miss Law is to write'). With carbon copy of the same. Items Eleven and Twelve: Two ALsS to Parsons from Mary Law's husband H. S. Kingdon. 5 and 27 April 1918, both from 9 Waterloo St, Hove. In the first letter he writes: 'I was under the impression that Mary had discussed with you the matter of selling through Harts but apparently this is not the Case. Harts have been trying to sell for some time & I also advertised and received about fourteen replies. Nothing has resulted up to now although I had a number of likely purchasers. I am afraid Harts do not want to do business as they cannot make two or three hundred out of the transaction. If you approve I will take the fiddle away from them & effect the insurance in your name but naturally shall pay the account on Mary's behalf'. In the second he reports that he has 'put several possible buyers in touch with Harts but imagine the military position may account for their failure to conclude any sale at the moment. | Whilst it is very kind of you to suggest that you should pay future insurances I think this is quite wrong as your [sic] possession of the fiddle arose entirely from your kindness to Mary which I need hardly say she very much appreciates'. Items Thirteen and Fourteen: Two ALsS to Parsons from George Hart of Hart & Son, 28 Wardour St, London, 6 April 1918 and 20 January 1920. The first letter explains that Kingdon has 'left your Stradivarius violin here on sale at £750. In the event of his finding a purchaser we have arranged to charge Prem 5% for our trouble in the matter. […] I understand Mrs. Kingdon has purchased another Strad which she prefers to the one she has been using for so many years. I do not know what she paid for it. I have given instructions to have the Strad insured against Aircraft risks as you wish'. The second letter begins: 'I regret we have not succeeded in placing the Strad for you yet' and ending 'I strongly advice you not to send a violin of this kind to the Auction Rooms.' Items Fifteen and Sixteen: TLS and TNS to Parsons from Robert W. Elder of London solicitors Elder & Co. 22 and 26 January 1910. Item Seventeen is a Harts compliments slip. On 15 July 1921, with both Parsons and Mary Law dead, The Times reported: 'A violin by Antonius Stradivarius, Cremona, 1692, the property of the late Mr. G. H. L. Parsons, of Streatham Park, sold for £500 (Mayo) at Messrs. Puttick and Simpson's yesterday'. C. R. Mayo was a partner at Parson's solicitors Elder & Co., so it seems likely that the instrument was bought in.