George's Story

George was born in New York City in 1940.  His mother was half-Jewish, raised largely in France; his father was the son of an admiral in the US Navy who was also a congressman from Alabama and the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor from Franklin Roosevelt.  George’s parents were divorced in 1943.   His father served in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and fought under British command behind the lines in the former Yugoslavia, doing hazardous liaison work and evacuating wounded soldiers.  After returning from Europe in 1945, he saw his young son briefly and then joined his older brother Rich Hobson in British Columbia, Canada, where, in the 30s, Rich had opened up an almost unknown grassland in central BC and established two working cattle ranches (Rich recounted his hair-raising adventures in three Canadian classics published in the 1950s and early 60s).  After a year working for his brother, George’s father bought a ranch of his own, where he lived for the next ten years.  When he was seven years old, George spent the summer with his father, whom he didn’t see again for six years.  His paternal grandmother (his grandfather, the admiral, had died in 1937, before he was born) accompanied him from Montreal to Vancouver to Prince George, on a six-day and night odyssey that would mark him for life. In 1952 his father married an English woman, and George had the joy of spending three summers on the ranch in his early teens with his father and stepmother. It was during these years that he began to write poetry and take photographs, and the experience of the Canadian wilderness has served ever since as a major poetic reference and source of inspiration. 

George’s cosmopolitan mother, who had custody of George, remained in New York and remarried in 1944.  She gave birth to her second son in 1949 and was divorced a second time in 1952.  She married a third time in 1953,   and this marriage too ended in divorce in the early 60s.  All these factors—the war, the radical differences between his two parents and the worlds they inhabited, and the succession of divorces and remarriages—profoundly troubled George, who struggled during his youth to hold together these unstable aspects of his life.  To this already heady mix of contrasts was added the European factor—in particular France—in 1956, when he visited his maternal grandmother in France, where she had lived much of the time since the death of her second husband in 1947, the French biologist Pierre Lecomte du Noüy.  George fell in love with France and the French language, and had the privilege of spending the next year studying French and living in a pension in Lausanne, Switzerland.  In 1957-58 George studied at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and in 1958-1962 he attended Harvard University.

During the summers of his college years, the pendulum swung back toward physical work and ranch life.  George hired out as a hand on ranches in Montana and Colorado and fought fires for the Forest Service in Idaho.  Then, after college, he returned to Paris and began to write a complex novel.  This artistic labor was an ambitious effort to integrate, through art, the multiple and often conflictual dimensions of his life.  It was an authentic quest for identity.  The few poems he wrote during this period all reflect this existential quest.  Next came a stint in the Army Reserves, followed by several years holding down odd jobs in New York and laboring on the novel.

In 1964 he met Victoria Lewis, the woman who became his wife seven years later.  Several years after that, a friend of hers experienced a powerful conversion from typical modern religious indifference and unbelief to strong Christian commitment.  He spoke to Victoria about Christ and the Gospel in a way she’d never heard before, and in the months following, before her eyes, his character and behavior began to change markedly for the better.  She was impressed.   Sometime later she herself opened her mind and heart to the truth of the Gospel in the Person of Jesus Christ, and her life too began to come together in ways unimagined before.  She in turn spoke to George about this new spiritual realm into which she had entered, and about this glorious figure she had encountered personally, Jesus Christ.  He listened intently, and not just because she was his fiancée.  She spoke with remarkable authority.

In the beginning of 1970 George too submitted to what he describes as the felicitous divine constraint that God was exercising on him.  He repented of what he saw to be sins in his life that the Holy Spirit had been making him increasingly conscious of, and of which he was ashamed—the self-centeredness and emotional self-indulgence, so damaging to others—and committed his life to Christ.  He and Victoria immediately became involved in a vibrant home prayer meeting and a Presbyterian parish not far from where George lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  A year and a half later they were married and moved to Connecticut, where again they became involved in a local parish and an exciting house community, where true Christian communion was lived out in mutual blessing.  

By this time Victoria had left her high-powered job as an editor with Random House; the couple were getting by on savings and devoting themselves full-time to what was clearly emerging as a lay Christian ministry.  The center of George’s life had now shifted from himself to Jesus Christ.  He came to see that his ambitious novel had become a kind of idol separating him both from his wife and from God; and his difficulties with the book itself, which had become insuperable, finally convinced him that he was not genuinely gifted as a novelist.  With great pain, in prayer, he surrendered the novel to God; it was as if chains fell off him; he felt liberated from his “old self” and the need/drive to justify his existence, and felt free henceforth to open himself truly to others, and to serve.  It would be ten years before he found his essential vocation and gift as poet and took up pen again.  

IN 1973-4 a series of circumstances led to their being invited by a French Reformed Church pastor to return to France and work as lay ministers in the ecumenical Charismatic Movement that was just then taking off in France.  They moved to France for good in the summer of 1974.

Five years later, exhausted and conscious that they’d come to the end of a phase and needed to expand their horizons yet again, they both managed to get into Oxford University, George in Theology and Victoria in Medieval Literature.  Many years and degrees later—George’s studies culminated in a DPhil degree in Systematic Theology—George was ordained first deacon then priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States and hired as Canon Pastor at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, known as the American Cathedral.  He served there for five years, while Victoria entered upon a new phase in her immensely productive career, as translator for the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique).  Deeply to their regret, they were unable to have children, but this did permit them to have experiences in their lives that would have been out of the question if they had had to raise a family.

It was during the decade of the 80s that George’s poetry took off, along with his photography.  During the holiday periods he wrote assiduously, and a body of work began to take shape.  Twenty years on, in 2005, his first book Rumours of Hope—including many of his own photographs—appeared in the UK, followed by Forgotten Genocides of the 20th Century, a collective work in which he has seven poems.

Starting in 2000, George, usually accompanied by Victoria, began to be invited to teach courses in theology in seminaries and theological colleges in developing countries.  Over the next thirteen years, this new challenge took them to Rwanda, Burundi, Armenia, Haiti, and Pakistan.  George’s exposure to the unspeakable horrors of the Armenian and Rwandan genocides pushed him to confront these appalling events in poetry; this in turn led him to expand his range to include evocations of some of the darker aspects of modern life.

In the current phase of his life, officially retired from professional duties, he is living with Victoria in the department of the Lot in southern France.  He is currently focusing his attention on a poetry collection called Love Poems, consisting of nearly thirty poems written over many years that seek to express the ever-deepening love between him and his wife.  Along with making available to a wider audience the considerable corpus of work George has by now amassed, it is his fervent desire, by publishing his Love Poems, to honor Victoria publicly for the brilliant, beautiful woman that she is in herself, and for the ever more loving, funny, tender companion that she has been and is for him.