Wednesday, March 21, 2018

More new authors (2 of 2)

Apologies for disappearing for quite a bit longer than I intended between posts. It's been a busy couple of weeks (though one rife with some good reading, which I shall have to report on soon).

It's not often that one of my authors is a ghost (at least that I know of, although I wouldn't mind a ghostly visit from Stella Gibbons or Rumer Godden, if they were of a mind to have some tea and a chat late one night), but anyone who lives in or near South Derbyshire might be interested to know that Minnie Elisabeth Farmer, who published a single novel as ELIZABETH HARRINGTON, is best known as the ghost who occasionally appears in the wooded area surrounding the White Lady Springs Reservoir near Castle Gresley. Sadly, she drowned herself in the reservoice in 1925, and it is believed that her apparition has given the reservoir its name. You can read about her ghost here, among other places. Farmer was the author of Paul Raymond, Revolutionist (1921), which was dedicated to the "children of the underworld," but about which little other information is available. According to newspaper coverage of her death, she was a former schoolmistress and had attended conferences abroad with the Women's International League.

O. SHAKESPEAR's six novels are described by OCEF as "of the marriage problem class," which doesn't make me tingle with anticipation, but on the other hand, apparently she and poet William Butler Yeats had an affair in 1896 and considered eloping together, which makes her a bit more intriguing to me. Valancourt Books has reprinted an additional novel, which was serialized but never before published in book form, Beauty's Hour (1896) (see here).

I'm also not terribly excited about the four romantic novels written by ANNE MACGILLIVRAYIsle of Youth (1957), The Pool of Light (1960), Stairway to Happiness (1962), The Deep Intent (1964)—but it was rather fun trying to identify her. John Herrington was finally able to confirm that she was the Yorkshire-born wife of Angus MacGillivray, head of the MacGillivray clan. 

Crail, Fife

They lived in Crail, Fife, which looks like it belongs on my next Scotland itinerary, and also, coincidentally, was the setting of D. E. Stevenson's Spring Magic, which I just happened to be reading at the same time we were researching MacGillivray—what were the chances? [Wrong, wrong, wrong! See comments below. D'oh!] MacGillivray seems to have begun writing only in her seventies.

DOROTHEA DEAKIN's seven novels were described by OCEF as "fairly tedious comedies of village or country house life," but contemporary critics referred to her work as "frothy," "thoroughly amusing," and "freshly and brightly written," so they could clearly go either way. Add to that that she was the niece of none other than E. Nesbit, and one might consider sampling her work. The novels' titles are The Smile of Melinda (1903), The Poet and the Pierrot (1905), 'Georgie' (1906), The Princess and the Kitchen Maid (1906), The Young Columbine (1908), Tormentilla (1908), and The Goddess Girl (1910). She also published a considerable amount of periodical fiction. She died in 1924 in a clinic in Lugano, Switzerland, which might suggest tuberculosis. She had married in 1910, perhaps not coincidentally the date of her final novel.

Since I've been doing research for this blog, I've discovered that a lot of writers have written books either rewriting, continuing, or completing works by Jane Austen. Some are better than others, no doubt, and some more faithful to Austen's style. Judged by such criteria, surely ALICE COBBETT's Somehow Lengthened (1932), a completion of Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon, is on the lower end of the spectrum. Blogger Deborah Yaffe wrote about it here, noting that Cobbett's version of Austen's story includes "a Caribbean love potion, a kidnapping, a near race riot, a blindfold nighttime journey over rough terrain, a smuggling gang, a dying prostitute, and a filthy-rich countess with a philanthropic bent" but also concluding that it's "quite a lot of fun." Cobbett wrote one additional novel, A Tale of Treasons (1937), about which information is lacking. She was the daughter of a well-known Victorian sports journalist, Martin Cobbett.

MARY WALL also wrote only two novels, which are similarly replete with plot. A Writing-Woman's Romance (1908) deals with the "love-story of the sub-editor of a provincial temperance journal and the manager of a wholesale whisky business," but that's nothing compared to Back to the World (1916). The Month notes that the latter "treats with much psychological insight of the sensations of a discharged lunatic, rendered insane in childbirth by the callousness of an unsympathetic husband, and 'put away' for the space of twenty years." I imagine many of you will rush to your favorite online bookseller to search for those plum titles! Wall remains unidentified, but she also published one volume of poetry, The Millionaire and Other Poems (1913), and John Herrington found a review that suggests she may have been Irish.

Descending a bit further into melodrama, we come across JUANITA SAVAGE, the unidentified author of eight romantic novels with titles like Spanish Love (1924), The City of Desire (1926), Passion Island (1927), Bandit Love (1931), and Spanish Rapture (1934). The City of Desire incorporates elements of sci-fi as it's heroine discovers a lost civilization (as well as true love). John Herrington was unable to trace her in public records, though there is just a slight possibility that Savage could have been a pseudonym of Amy GILMOUR, whose work was similar in style and whom one source suggested was more prolific and successful than her one known title.

Surely one of the most inexplicable of transatlantic retitlings: the UK edition...

...and the American edition

EVELYN ANTHONY published nearly three dozen volumes of historical fiction and romantic suspense, though she is perhaps best known now for her 1971 novel The Tamarind Seed, made into a film starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. Her career began with a "Romanov trilogy" comprised of Imperial Highness (1953, aka Rebel Princess), Curse Not the King (1954, aka Royal Intrigue), and Far Flies the Eagle (1955, aka Far Fly the Eagles). Regarding her later suspense fiction, the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers noted: "The action of her plots often involves more romance than intrigue. … Anthony's lovers in each novel are immediately identifiable to the reader by the strong and immutable sexual attraction they feel for each other. No matter how the book ends, the characters have no choice but to be motivated and controlled by that attraction."

Perhaps Anthony could trace her literary roots back to Caroline Emily Cameron, who published more than 40 novels under the name MRS LOVETT CAMERON. OCEF describes her work as melodramatic, but goes on: "Her practice is to titillate the reader by approaching sexual sin and tragedy and then retreating to romance." One of her most successful works was In a Grass Country (1885). Her brother-in-law, Verney Lovett Cameron, was the author of adventure stories for boys.

Despite having published only six novels over the course of 20 years, DORIS SUTCLIFFE ADAMS seems to have some loyal fans, judging from my online searches for information about her. Her first four appeared under her own name, the last two under her pseudonym, Grace Ingram. Desert Leopard (1958) and No Man's Son (1961) are set in the time of the Crusades, The Price of Blood (1962) in the days of Viking attacks on England, and Power of Darkness (1967) during the reign of King John. The two novels as Grace Ingram—Red Adam's Lady (1973) and Gilded Spurs (1978)—perhaps have a bit more of a romantic focus.

Similarly historical in theme are the seven novels by the unidentified E. YOLLAND. Her debut, In Days of Strife (1896), is subtitled "Fragments of fact and fiction from a Refugee's history in France, 1666 to 1685." A bookseller describes Sarolta's Verdict (1899) as a "Gothic novel set among Hungarian gypsies." And her final novel, The Struggle for the Crown: A Romance of the Seventeenth Century (1912), is apparently aimed at young women and is narrated by a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth of Bohemia, the "Winter Queen." The others are Mistress Bridget (1898), Vanity's Price (1900), The Monk's Shadow (1902), and Under the Stars (1907).

One critic referred to FRANCES MUNDY-CASTLE's The Chemist's Wife (1940, published under her pseudonym Peggy Whitehouse) as "Madame Bovary in a different key". Not terribly revealing, but details of her other seven novels are entirely lacking. She has also been identified as the author of A Democrat's Chapbook (1942), published under the name "Quiet Woman," which was subtitled "a chronicle of some of the events of the present war, up to the entry of America, December 1941, with reflections."

The remaining five authors from my recent update include KITTY LESSELLS, who wrote ten romantic novels in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as four authors whose work mostly appeared before my time period but who just squeak onto the list with a final title or two after 1910.

JESSIE CHALLACOMBE published nearly a dozen works of fiction, at least some for children and all published by Christian-oriented publishers. Her non-fiction Jottings from a Farnborough Note Book (1922) was reprinted in 1980 with the subtitle "a story of an old world village".

GERALDINE EMMA HODGSON was a biographer and author of non-fiction on topics ranging from Christian saints and histories of education to a teacher's guide to Montaigne. She also published at least four novels, as well as one later work, Across the Forest and Far Away (1911), which appears to be children's fiction and thus qualifies her for my list.       

KATHERINE S. MACQUOID was a travel writer and author of more than 50 volumes of fiction, most romantic in theme. Some of her best-known novels are A Bad Beginning: a Story of a French Marriage (1862), Patty (1871), At the Red Glove (1885), "a romantic comedy set in a penson in Bern" (ODNB), and Captain Dallington (1907), about a highwayman. Her final novel, Molly Montague's Love Story (1911), qualifies her for this list.

And finally, ELIZABETH HARCOURT MITCHELL was a poet, hymnist, author of religious-themed non-fiction, and novelist. Her nearly 20 volumes of fiction often featured religious themes, and the last, Harriet's Treasure (1910), allows her onto my list.

Monday, March 5, 2018

More new authors (1 of 2)

I have two more posts featuring new additions to my British list, and then I'll be able to report on the beginning of the American list, which has been bubbling along nicely under the surface. (I can definitely report that there are just as many "lost" American women writers as there are on the other side of the pond…)

In addition to all the newly added children's authors I've reported on recently, there were 32 other new writers, some naturally of more interest than others, but I'll at least mention all of them in passing. Sadly, not so many great covers to share for these posts, though there are two—by different authors—which are strikingly similar...

New authors first appear on my radar in a variety of ways. One of these new authors happened to come from my recent reading of Reggie Oliver's biography of Stella Gibbons, Out of the Woodshed. It's a mediocre biography (the glorious Gibbons deserves better), but it did bring to my attention a friend of Stella's who was also a novelist.

I couldn't find a lot of info about GWEN CLEAR, a poet and author of two novels. About the extent of it is that the Bookman called her first novel, The Years That Crown (1930), "a slender bit of work which betrays a sensitive mind, hovering delicately over the lives of a group of people, but never quite encompassing them." Not a lot to go on, but I'm a bit intrigued. If she was a friend of Stella's…  Information about her second novel, The Undisciplined Heart (1938), is even more sparse.

It was a book catalogue that brought KATHLEEN BARRATT my way, but it was a while back and I've forgotten which catalogue it was. Her debut novel, To Fight Another Day (1947), particularly caught my eye, as it's a grownup school story, and, according to a blurb quoted on Abe Books, "deals with the clash of temperament between the senior mistress and the newly-appointed Headmistress, both of whom had been pupils at the school. … Against the background of life in a busy school and with the help—and hinderance—of members of the staff, the old antagonism between the two women frequently reasserts itself until the final climax is reached."

I have to admit, though, that a blurb from her second novel, The Fault Undone (1949), about an unmarried mother, calls it the "[s]low, frigid, unromantic romance of a pedagogue and a girl who once made a mistake," which doesn't sound nearly so intriguing. Her other two novels, about which details are lacking, were The Bright Lantern (1954) and Future in the Past (1956).

I came across AUDREY JENNINGS in an online Spectator resulting from a Google search for a completely different author. She wrote only one novel, Storied Urn (1933), of which the Spectator said: "Miss Jennings tells the story, common enough in eighteenth-century comedy, of the rival lovers and the unsophisticated heroine: but she treats it with a depth and sympathy of her own." She was apparently a secretary at the Society of Genealogists. There was also an artist of the same name active in the 1950s and 1960s, but I don't have enough information to link them with certainty.

And while I'm stumbling, I'll report that CICELY FARMER came up in a Hathi Trust search result, which means I can report that her last novel, Artemis Weds (1932), is available there for downloading, at least in the U.S. It turns out that Farmer was the wife of "sea scouting" pioneer Warington Baden-Powell (therefore sister-in-law of Robert Baden-Powell). Her other novels are The Painted Show (1924), Waters of Fayle (1925), and Anna (1931), for sure, though I'm not certain if a fifth title, The Bending Sickle (1931), first published in the U.S., is just an American edition of one of her other works or a separate novel. She also published two books about her travels—Dragons and a Bell (1931), about a trip through China, Malaysia, Burma, and Sri Lanka, and Sunrise Over India (1934).

Then of course there's my favorite source of new authors for my list—readers sharing their finds with me.

Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book gave me a heads up about DOROTHY BAKER, a Brit who is not to be confused with her (slightly) better-known American namesake. The American Baker was best known for Young Man with a Horn (1938) and Cassandra at the Wedding (1962). This Dorothy Baker seems to have worked with the BBC and published only two novels, Coast Town Tapestry (1946), subtitled "a novel with a wartime background," and The Street (1951). Simon unearthed a copy of the latter and reviewed it here. According to the British Library catalogue, she appears to have published only one additional book, A Short Guide to English Architecture (1974).

review from The Mercury, 21 Oct 1932

review from Perth Daily News, 21 Oct 1933

Grant Hurlock has long been a friend of this blog, and has provided several other authors for my lists. Ages ago, he sent me info on VIOLA CASTANG, and I'm just getting round to adding her now. She published a dozen novels, now mostly very scarce. Reviews of the first two, At Last a God (1932) and Country Party (1933), suggest romantic comedies—the first dealing with a young girl with her head full of romance novels, and her bumpy path to the real thing. Other titles include Pirated Poet (1935), I Am Your Adventure (1945), Mrs Clements (1947), Lost Within the Hill (1948), This Can't Be Love (1950), Mate in Two Moves (1951), Bitter Honey (1952), Troubled Summer (1952), and The Invisible Cord (1958). After a considerable absence, she returned in 1972 with one final novel, a mystery evocatively titled A Smell of Garbage (1972).

From David Redd came a recommendation to add an all-around intriguing figure, RÈNE RAY, who wrote seven novels, was a successful screenwriter, and had begun her career as a stage and film actress. Among other things, she auditioned for Joan Fontaine's role in Rebecca. Her first novel, Wraxton Marne (1946), was subtitled "The Tale of a Ghostly Ruin and the Family to Whom it Once Belonged". Her second novel, Emma Conquest (1950), was described as dealing with "a girl's fight against a disastrous inheritance," whatever that might mean, and according to one source was a bestseller. She wrote the screenplay for the science-fiction TV series The Strange World of Planet X, which aired in 1956, and the following year she published a slightly different novel version by the same title. Her other titles are A Man Named Seraphin (1952), The Garden of Cahmohn (1955), The Tree Surgeon (1958), and, after an extended absence from writing, a final fantasy novel called Angel Assignment (1988). With her second marriage in 1975 to the 2nd Earl of Midleton, Ray/Creese became the Countess of Midleton. A note regarding her name: Her IMDB entry shows her first name as René, but her book covers and the British Library catalogue both show it as Rène, which—unusual as it is—I believe to be correct.

There are a few authors in this batch I can single out for their interesting personal stories. MRS VERE CAMPBELL was actually the mother of Marjorie Bowen, who has been on my list since very early on. She wrote eight melodramatic novels, with which she supported herself and her two daughters after separating from her husband. Marjorie Bowen once noted that her mother's work "dealt entirely with her own experiences of passion and poverty. She wrote again and again of misunderstood and wronged women and the various attractive, but faithless, men who had crossed their path." The last of her novels, For No Man Knoweth (1910), just barely qualifies her for this list (which is my excuse for not having added her before.

I have to say that when I came across the name HARRIET M. CAPES, I didn't expect it to be a match with two different authors. But, indeed there are two Harriet Mary Capes, both of them authors, and there has been a fair amount of confusion between them. I think I have now sorted out the confusion, but if anyone else has information about these women, please do let me know.

I believe that only one of the two authors fits my list. That Harriet Mary Capes, who often signed her fiction Sister Mary Reginald (later Mother Mary Reginald), was a nun at St. Dominic's Convent in Staffordshire, as well as a missionary, biographer of religious figures, and author of several volumes of fiction. Her first fiction was apparently Footsteps in the Ward and Other Stories (1910). Later titles which appear to be fiction (but for which little information is available) are The Vision of Master Reginald, Friar Preacher (1911), "Pardon and Peace": The Last Chronicle of an Old Family (1920), Within the Enclosure (1923), written under the pseudonym Harriet Delgairn, and Gold or God? (1932).

That's the extent of the literary output of "my" Harriet Mary Capes. The other author is Magdalen Harriet Mary Capes, usually written "M. Harriet M. Capes," who was the sister of novelist Bernard Capes and a friend of Joseph Conrad. Magdalen was the author of nine earlier children's titles, published 1885-1899 (therefore too early for me), as well as one novel under the pseudonym Magdalen Brooke. A 1908 publication called Busy Bee's Day: A Fairy Play for Children is presumably by Magdalen as well, given that Sister/Mother Mary doesn't seem to have written for children at all.

I'm fairly confident that we have now got these two women's lives and works straightened out, but a quick glance at Abe Books will show ongoing confusion about them.

I already reported a while back on the confusions that initially surrounded PRINCESS PAUL TROUBETZKOY (and there turned out to be a second related author there too, as Amélie Louise Rives, who sometimes went by Princess Troubetzkoy, will appear on my American list).

And, okay, it might be stretching the meaning of the word "interesting" to call MRS ARTHUR HENNIKER's story by that name, but her name does turn up here and there in scholarly works to this day because of her one main claim to fame: She was the only author with whom Thomas Hardy ever collaborated on a work of fiction—a story called "The Spectre of the Real," which appeared in Henniker's collection In Scarlet and Grey: Stories of Soldiers and Others (1896). She also published eight other volumes of fiction, the last of which, Second Fiddle (1912), qualifies her for this list. That novel deals with an unhappily married woman, and OCEF called it "genuinely poignant." Regarding Hardy, some sources suggest that he actively pursued a romantic relationship with Henniker but she insisted they remain friends. His letters to her were published as One Rare Fair Woman (1972).

And then there are a few authors who are included only as housekeeping (or, in the case of the first, as an excuse to share cover art).

EVA MCDONALD published nearly 40 volumes of historical romance. Titles include Lazare the Leopard (1959), The Rebel Bride (1960), The Prettiest Jacobite (1961), Lord Byron's First Love (1968), Regency Rake (1973), and House of Secrets (1980).

MARGOT ARNOLD's six novels are so obscure I can find no details about any of them. Titles are The Wall (1935), Evolution of Elizabeth (1936), Fun for Felicity (1937), "—I Had No Shoes" (1938), Birds of Sadness (1940), and A Different Drummer (1941). A later title, Portrait of Caroline (1958), may also be by Arnold. She is not, however, to be confused with American author Petronelle Cook, who wrote a mystery series and other novels under the name Margot Arnold.

JOHN ABBYFORDE was the pseudonym of an Edith May Hollinshead, née Jenkin, who published a single novel, The Flaw (1929), about industrial life in Yorkshire. She reportedly also published a number of periodical stories using the same pseudonym.

And finally, a tidbit I missed the first time around. I've had Paid to Be Safe (1948), a novel about the World War II Air Transport Auxiliary, on my war list for ages, and I've had one of its two authors, March Cost (as Margaret Morrison), on my author list, but had somehow left off Cost's co-author, PAMELA TULK-HART. As far as I can tell, Tulk-Hart didn't publish any other books, but she has now at long last been added to the list.

Along with a miscellany of others, the next post will contain a woman who's not so well known for her one novel as she is for her hauntings…

Friday, February 23, 2018

A happy coincidence: Sylvia Townsend Warner on Mary Eleanor Wilkins

As a few of you already know from a previous mention of it, a few years ago, before I ever started blogging, I put my fantasy publishing energies to use by self-publishing an anthology of short stories by American women. This was just at the beginning of my interest in women writers that most people had never heard of, and I wanted to learn about the process of putting together an actual book.

At that time I had not the foggiest notion of tracking down heirs or creating rights contracts, so I chose stories from the middle of the 19th century up to 1922, because under U.S. copyright law nothing published in the U.S. before 1923 can still be under copyright. (Thanks to Disney wining and dining the U.S. Congress a while back in order to obtain changes to our copyright laws, it's possible that that year will never change—and it's not a coincidence that Mickey Mouse came along later in the 1920s and was in danger of lapsing out of copyright, but that's another story.)

Putting together the book took a crazy amount of time, since I was figuring out each step on my own, but it was a lot of fun, and what I ended up with was a book called Her Peers: Stories by American Woman, 1852 – 1917. I was pleased with the result overall. It was also a marvelous excuse for reading writers like Harriet Prescott Spofford (whose "Circumstance" can stand alongside anything Hawthorne ever wrote), Rose Terry Cooke, and Susan Glaspell, and probably led me to the greener pastures of exploring women writers from the other side of the pond. If I were doing it again I might make the book a bit shorter and therefore more affordable (a valuable learning experience about nice big reader-friendly fonts and how quickly they add to the cost of a book), and although I thought it was nice to use a picture of a quilt made by my grandmother for the cover, I might actually use one showing the design to better effect instead of just some of the blocking. And don't remind me of the several typos I found too late. But oh well, not bad for a first attempt.

I was amused to find that Her Peers is yet another example of insane
overpricing on Amazon--presumably an algorithm gone berserk? 

You can still view the book on Amazon here, and I'm delighted to report that it's current sales rank is #6,388,680—clearly they can barely keep up with demand! (You can also see the pretentious and utterly embarrassing little blurb I wrote about "Canon Fodder Press," as if it was going to be the next Random House. Ugh.) But this is NOT a pitch to get you to buy the book, as I will hasten to add that since the stories are all public domain, they are also all available for free online, so please save your money for the next batch of Furrowed Middlebrow titles…  :-)

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

But on to the happy coincidence: One of my favorites of the authors I read in researching Her Peers was Mary Eleanor Wilkins (later Wilkins Freeman, following her own unhappy marriage), best known for her story "A New England Nun" and the 1891 collection from which it came. Although I didn't read enough of her work to make a broad generalization, several of her best-known stories deal with single women who choose or have already chosen to retain their independence and their solitary happiness. In an age, of course, when most writers still wrote as if happy endings must necessarily include marriage.

Although scholars these days are perhaps a bit more aware of Wilkins than they used to be, and some literature students might happen to read something of hers, she is still not widely known. So imagine how happy I was to find another of my favorite authors, the brilliant Sylvia Townsend Warner, devoting an entire, very charming, late story to Wilkins.

I've been reading several of Warner's later collections recently and loving every second of them (spoiler alert: her abilities just kept improving with age), and in the middle of reading The Music at Long Verney, a volume of previously uncollected stories which only appeared in 2001, comprised mostly of stories that first appeared (as almost all of her stories did) in The New Yorker, there was "Item, One Empty House," a lovely, humorous, presumably autobiographical tale from 1973 that centers entirely around Warner's fondness for Wilkins!

Here Warner is irresistibly describing her first experience of Wilkins' work:

After I had been taught to read I was left to read on unassisted. If a title looked promising I tried the book (and thus for years and years never opened Gogol's Dead Souls, being convinced it was a work of piety). One day I pulled out a volume called A New England Nun. There were two convents in our town, and a nun was a regular feature at the fishmonger's—but nuns in fiction led more animated lives; though my notions about New England were of the vaguest kind and Mary E. Wilkins not a compelling name, the title, I thought, warranted a try. There was no word of a nun; but from the moment when Louisa Ellis tied on a green apron and went out with a little blue crockery bowl to pick some  currants for her tea I lost all wish for nuns and animated lives. I had found something nearer the bone. Though I could not have defined what I had found, I knew it was what I wanted. It was something I had already found in nature and in certain teapots—something akin to the precision with which the green ruff fits the white strawberry blossom, or to the airy spacing of a Worcester sprig. But, scampering between balderdash and masterpiece, I had not so far noticed it could happen in writing too.

Having found it, this mysterious charm, I read on how Louisa, after she had finished her tea and washed up the tea things, took off her green apron, disclosing a pink-and-white apron beneath it, which was her sewing apron. This in turn she took off when she heard a man's steps coming up the walk. Beneath the pink-and-white apron was her company apron, of white linen. The man came into the room; he was her suitor, and his entrance, as usual, frightened the canary. He was honest and good and had wooed her faithfully, but in the upshot she dismissed him and remained alone among the currant bushes; and that was the end of the story.

She goes on to think of Wilkins in relation to her more famous contemporary, Maupassant:

He would have thought her a quaint character and put her into one of his stories. She would have surmised him to be a bad character and kept him out of any story of hers.

And she also delineates Wilkins' limitations, including that "lettuce juice too often flowed through the veins of her characters instead of blood," with which I might have to quibble with dear Sylvia, however much I adore her. But there is a clear genuine affection for Wilkins, and it may be no coincidence that I feel that both Warner and Wilkins are kindred spirits.

I can't spoil the story by revealing the ending, but Warner, in just a couple of final paragraphs, describes how, walking in the New England woods one day, she came upon an intriguing scenario that perfectly evoked Wilkins, and concludes:

This was no business of mine. I had come on a story by Mary Wilkins—a story she did not finish.

If you haven't read any of Wilkins' work, I do add my recommendation to Warner's, and I just stumbled across this site which has a number of her stories as well as stories and even novels by many other authors (including some British authors, strangely enough considering the site's name, so I have made a note to revisit it and explore further). Under "Authors" at the top, there's an option for "Women Writers," which leads to an array of options.

And for that matter, if you haven't read Warner's witty and charming late stories, I recommend those too. I have now moved on from The Music at Long Verney to Scenes of Childhood, comprised of recollections of her late Victorian/Edwardian childhood, also originally published in The New Yorker, and I am eating it up. Fans of Gwen Raverat's Period Piece might find it right up their alley.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Update: New children's authors (3 of 3)

My pick for best cover art in this batch

My third and final post about children's authors just added to my British & Irish list contains Scottish settings, witchy "hags", and enticing book covers. But I find myself irrationally attracted to a single WWI-era title by one of the new authors…

WINIFRED PARES was the author of more than a dozen children's books, but the one that has caught my eye is Hen and Chickens: A Story of Girl Life in the Great War (1920). I can find no details about it. Has anyone ever come across it?

Pares published her first two titles—A Pair of Ducks (1898) and Peacocks, or, What Little Hands Can Do (1899)—appeared under her maiden name, Winifred Percy Smith. She married in 1900, which may explain why she apparently didn't publish again until 1919. Other titles include An Everyday Angel (1919), The Grey House Opposite (1924), The Secret of the Dusty House (1925), The Creaking Bough (1926), Miss Lavender (1926), Poor Man's Pepper (1930), The Toymakers of Trev (1939), and Mr Nobody's House (1939).

But now, on to Scotland (and oh I wish I was really bound for Scotland)! ELLEN JANE MACLEOD has almost as good a claim to be on my American list as here, having emigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 9. But she returned to Scotland in the early 1950s, and her work is almost entirely set there, so she fits here better. Reportedly, she began writing after an automobile accident ended early efforts to be a dancer. Her children's books include The Crooked Signpost (1957), Adventures on the Lazy "N" (1957), Mystery Gorge (1959), The Vanishing Light (1961), Stranger in the Glen (1969), and Isle of Shadows (1974). 

MacLeod also published a romantic novel, Orchids for a Rose (1963). The Writer's Directory lists several additional titles not shown in Worldcat—From Aunt Jane, with Love (1974), Wing Home, My Heart (1975), Those Joyful Days (1976), and Another Time, Another Place (1977). These could have been self-published, and information is hard to find, but they could plausibly be memoirs.

Like MacLeod, ISOBEL KNIGHT spent a number of years in the U.S., though her time was spent there as an adult. she was the author of numerous readers and story books for younger children, as well as retellings of works by other authors. The only title I've found that appears to be for older children is The Mystery of the Island (1948), about children exploring a ruined castle on a small Scottish isle. She got married in Calcutta and on the 1930 U.S. census was living in Detroit and working as a stenographer in an auto factory.

Sadly, ELIZABETH LEITCH remains untraced, but she wrote four children's titles—The Raiders' Road (1937), The Two Houses by the Shore (1938), The Saturday Club (1940), and The Family at Kilmory (1955). Some or all of these seem to have Scottish settings, and most were reprinted at least once.

BRENDA G. MACROW wrote mostly non-fiction about Scotland, as well as verse for children, but she also published two works of children's fiction, the fantasy-themed The Amazing Mr. Whisper (1958) and its sequel The Return of Mr. Whisper (1959), about children whose summer tutor has magical powers.

And now we come to the hags, which I admit are intriguing me a bit. I've had a love for witchy kinds of books ever since discovering Lolly Willowes, so a series of books by LORNA M. WOOD about the "hag" Dowsabel appeals to me. Depressingly, it seems like it will be a challenge to get my hands on any of them though. The series includes The People in the Garden (1954), The Hag Calls for Help (1957), Holiday on Hot Bricks (1958), Seven-League Ballet Shoes (1959), Hags on Holiday (1960), Hag in the Castle (1962), Rescue by Broomstick (1963), and Hags by Starlight (1970). Her first published title was The Crumb-Snatchers (1933), a novel which the Spectator called "vivacious." Two subsequent titles, Gilded Sprays (1935) and The Hopeful Travellers (1936), appear to also be for adults. Her childhood, which she described in a Contemporary Authors entry, was clearly unconventional—no formal education, raised in a home without gas or electricity, then discovered as a musical prodigy and giving regular concerts. She and her husband visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and she contributed a piece about their experiences, "Correspondent's Wife," to the 1939 anthology Nothing But Danger.

K. WALLIS COALES wrote (and often illustrated) nine works of children's fiction, some with scouting and/or mystery themes. These include The Wharfbury Watch-Dogs (1930), The Pennyfound Puzzle (1931), The Monkey Patrol (1932), The Secret of the Fens (1935), The Mascot at No. 7 (1936), and Patricia at the Wheel (1937). She came by her interest in scouting honestly—her father was Herbert George Coales, who published scouting fiction under the pseudonym Mark Harborough.

Another title that sounds a bit intriguing is MODWENA SEDGWICK's The Children in the Painting (1969), which the Spectator called "a case history, told from the eye-level of a seven year old, about loneliness, unwantedness and the sense of loss." 

Sedgwick also had success with several books about a ragdoll named Galldora and several volumes of tales about a harvest mouse named Jan Perry.

LYDIA S. ELIOTT published a single adult novel, Lake of Destiny (1948), about which I couldn't locate any details. She then progressed to writing more than two dozen works for children, including fiction, non-fiction, and Bible stories, some for younger children. 

Children's titles that appear to be fiction for older children include Susan of Red Rock Fjord (1949), The Chief's Secret (1951), Ceva of the Caradoes (1953), The Girl from 'Chinooks' (1954), The Young Explorers (1958), and Found in the Forest (1958). Interestingly, her 1950 title Children of Galilee was illustrated by Mollie M. Kaye, later better known as novelist M. M. KAYE.

WINIFRED FINLAY may not be exactly a household name, but she garnered some good cover art. Finlay wrote more than 20 volumes of adventure and mystery fiction for children, as well as several collections of folktales, many of which she collected from oral sources. Her titles include The Witch of Redesdale (1951), Peril in Lakeland (1953), Cotswold Holiday (1954), The Castle and the Cave (1961), Mystery in the Middle Marches (1965), Summer of the Golden Stag (1969), and Beadbonny Ash (1973). 

Finlay wrote several series for the BBC Children's Hour. In the 1970s, she co-authored, with Gillian Hancock, several collections of themed stories, including ghosts, treasure hunter, and dog stories. She also published several late volumes of fantasy fiction, including Secret Rooms and Hiding Places (1982).

I don't have a lot of detail about the remaining five authors, but of course I have to include them and some of their charming, pretty, ordinary, and/or appalling cover art.

M. E. MATHEWS remains untraced, but there seems to be a consensus that the books are by a woman. She wrote about half a dozen books, including The Featherlight Family (1942), Princess Storm (1943), Runaway Adventure (1944), The Redheads of Windyridge (1950), The Island in the Lake (1951), and Sixpenny Holiday (1953).

Elaine Joan Murray Warde wrote as E. J. WARDE and published nearly a dozen volumes of adventure and mystery fiction for children, including Dangerous Diamonds (1960), Stoneacres (1962), The Riddle of Anchor Farm (1965), Adventures in Anderton (1968), Stowaway Farmer (1973), and The Jigsaw Puzzle (1978).

JEAN VAUGHAN is the untraced author of three children's titles—Lone Star (1940), Star and Company (1947), and Elizabeth's Green Way (1950)—described by one bookseller as girls' adventure stories.

Kathleen Mary Gadd, who published as K. M. GADD, is also unidentified (the full name comes from the British Library catalogue, but we can get no further). She published seven children's titles, some or all of them designed as readers for schools. Her first work, apparently non-fiction, was From Ur to Rome (1936). The others—La Bonté the Trapper (1939), X Bar Y Ranch (1939), White Hawk (1939), Wang Shu-Min: A Chinese Boy (1950), Sally Ann: A Tall Ship (1953), and Summer-Tenting: A Circus Story (1956)—seem to be fiction.

And finally, MARJORIE THORBURN published a single children's title, Edward and Marigold (1933). Her other two published works were Child at Play (1937), apparently based on her observations of her own child, and The Spirit of the Child: A Study of the Moral and Spiritual Development of Small Children (1946). She is described in one source as an educator, but little else is known.

So much for a big finish. But there still remain 32 new additions to the list who wrote primarily for grownups, and there are some intriguing discoveries among those as well. Stay tuned.
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