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The Brentford Mercury

Hugo Rune: A Biography

Part Three

by Michael Carroll


Hugo Rune

In 1926 on his travels throughout Asia Hugo Rune met a young man known only as Rizla. While there are a few surviving accounts of Rune himself, almost nothing is known of Rizla: He has been variously described as tall, short, long-haired, balding... In Arthur Cosley’s short account of his meetings with Rune (published in 1940 by Cosley’s own vanity press “Majestick Books”), Cosley postulates that Rizla was simply the name Rune gave to his current assistant, whoever he might be.

There is no evidence to support this theory, but Cosley maintains that on his first meeting with Rune in 1928, Rizla was a scrawny middle-aged man, dressed in a loose-fitting Kaftan, and on his next meeting with Rune (1934), Rizla - though at first appearing to be the same man - seemed to be younger, and rather fitter. Cosley quizzed Rune on this (for Rizla never spoke in public), and Rune’s reply took little from the mystery: “My dear Art, Rizla is who and what he appears to be, nothing more, nothing less.” Cosley pressed the point further, and Rune replied “My assistant has in recent years been the subject of an interesting experiment.” Baffled by Rune’s answer - and somewhat intimidated by the man himself - Cosley quickly changed the subject, and mentioned that it was a nice day. Rune quickly pointed out that weather-wise the day was agreeable, but that it is only the feeblest of imaginations that judges the quality of a day merely by the weather.

Though his one surviving letter shows a mastery of the English language, Rizla’s nationality has also the been the subject of some dispute among scholars. For many years, the cognoscenti accepted that Rizla was English, but there were some discerning voices, particularly Rune’s oldest colleague Jonathan Blackmoor.

While it was true that Jonathan Blackmoor didn’t see Rune from 1910 until just before his death in 1939, the young social-climber made much of the time he and Rune had spent at St Nicholas’ College for Young Men. He spoke eloquently about Rune’s beliefs and plans, and the papers at the time came to regard Blackmoor as an unofficial spokesman for Rune, when in fact Blackmoor gathered all of his information from those very same newspapers.

As for his theory about Rizla’s nationality, Blackmoor maintained that Rizla was Egyptian. He publicly stated this fact several times, and was once even quoted in the House of Commons by his second cousin Winston Churchill. However, in 1937 - following a scathing letter from Rune to Blackmoor’s family - it came to light that Blackmoor had based this “fact” solely on the knowledge that Rizla was never seen to wear trousers.

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