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Going Down the Tubes by Nigel Roth

Dernière mise à jour : 20 oct. 2021

This is yet another sad story, so prepare yourself.

It begins in Paris in 1913, just as the premier Raymond Nicolas Landry Poincaré was eradicating dissent from the government, which was less than democratic, while being a total Germanophobe, which was more than useful at the time.

Peter Cooper Hewitt, whose grandfather had filled the family coffers with his work on the steam locomotive, and who himself added to their astonishing wealth by inventing the mercury-vapor lamp, the radio receiver, and the mercury rectifier (which sounds terribly painful to me), had taken the coziness of the Franco-American relationship to a new level, by engaging in an affair with Maryon Andrews Brugiere.

Brugiere, echoing the inseparability of these two great powers, produced a child, Ann Cooper Hewitt, and that is where the happy part of the story ends.

While Ann remembered her father with fondness, describing him as ‘one of the few precious gifts of my life; he was a tall man, very kind and gentle. I think of him walking beside me, suiting his long gait to mine. It seems to me I spent all my happy times with him’, her mother was a different test tube of mercury altogether.

When he died in 1921, Ann’s father left a will describing exactly how he wanted his fifty-five-million-dollar-estate (in 2021 value) divided. While Ann would inherit two-thirds of this fortune, Ann’s mother would only receive one third, a measly eighteen million dollars (in today’s money).

Although faring far better than the wife Hewitt cast aside for her, and who would gain absolutely nothing from her former husband's estate, Brugiere was not happy with this division, and she cried bitter tears all along the Seine for weeks.

But there was a silver lining for the sulking widow.