Maurice Baring OBE (27 April 1874 – 14 December 1945) was an English man of letters, known as a dramatist, poet, novelist, translator and essayist, and also as a travel writer and war correspondent. During World War I, Baring served in the Intelligence Corps and Royal Air Force.
Baring was the eighth child, and fifth son, of Edward Charles Baring, first Baron Revelstoke, of the Baring banking family, and his wife Louisa Emily Charlotte Bulteel, granddaughter of the second Earl Grey. Born in Mayfair, he was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. After an abortive start of a diplomatic career, he travelled widely, particularly in Russia. He reported as an eye-witness of the Russo-Japanese War for the London Morning Post.
At the start of World War I he joined the Royal Flying Corps, where he served as assistant to David Henderson and Hugh Trenchard in France. In 1918, Baring served as a staff officer in the Royal Air Force and was appointed an Officer in the Order of the British Empire in the 1918 Birthday Honours. In 1925 Baring received an honorary commission as a wing commander in the Reserve of Air Force Officers. After his death, Trenchard wrote, "He was the most unselfish man I have ever met or am likely to meet. The Flying Corps owed to this man much more than they know or think."
After the war he enjoyed a period of success as a dramatist, and began to write novels. He suffered from chronic illness during the last years of his life; for the final 15 years of his life he was debilitated by Parkinson's Disease.
He was widely known socially, to some of the Cambridge Apostles, to The Coterie, and to the literary group associating with G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in particular. He was staunch in his anti-intellectualism with respect to the arts, and a convinced practical joker.
Previously an agnostic, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1909, "the only action in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted." Speaking from personal experience, however, he once advised Belloc to "never, never, never talk theology or discuss the Church with those outside it. People simply do not understand what you are talking about and they merely (a) get angry and (b) come to the conclusion that one doesn't believe in the thing oneself and that one is simply doing it to annoy."
Baring is remembered in verse in Belloc's Cautionary Verses:
Like many of the upper class
He liked the sound of broken glass*
* A line I stole with subtle daring
From Wing-Commander Maurice Baring
He once gave Virginia Woolf a copy of his book C. She was not impressed, writing in her diary:
Second-rate art i.e. C., by Maurice Baring. Within it limits, it is not second rate, or there is nothing markedly so, at first go off. The limits are the proof of its non-existence. He can only do one thing; himself to wit; charming, clean, modest, sensitive Englishman. Outside that radius and it does not carry far nor illumine much, all is—as it should be—light, sure, proportioned, affecting even; told in so well bred a manner that nothing is exaggerated, all related, proportioned. I could read this for ever, I said. L. said one would soon be sick to death of it.