Thursday, December 19, 2013

Revised and updated Overwhelming List

Whew!  After three months of hard labor—well, at least some occasional effort now and then—I've finished and posted a revised and updated version of my list, which you can view here.  I've also uploaded a new PDF version (which now weighs in at 127 pages, so you may want to download it rather than printing it) which you can download from the list pages or by clicking here.

The elusive March Cost (aka Margaret Morrison)

This new version happens to already contain a bunch of new writers which I'll be discussing in update posts over the new few weeks, and the total number of writers listed is now a rather stunning 809!  If you had told me a few months ago that the list would expand this much, I would have laughed (or perhaps cried), but it's actually quite satisfying to see it encompassing so many women who were popular, accomplished, and/or acclaimed in their time but have been largely forgotten today.  (Of course, it no doubt encompasses some perfectly dreadful writers as well, but c'est la vie.)

In addition to the new writers, the revised list contains slightly expanded bios for many writers, and it also now includes married or maiden names where that information is available, as well as any pseudonyms used.  This can be helpful information, especially for some lesser-known writers who may have published under both their maiden and married names.

I've also been able to flesh out life and death dates for a fair number of writers, and for this I have to thank Andy, who for a time became addicted to piecing together details of some of these women's lives.  It can be quite a jigsaw puzzle, especially since by the time some of these women died no one appears to have recalled that they had ever written novels, or to have thought that any documentation of that aspect of their live would be needed.  You might begin with the knowledge that a woman's novels are all set in Yorkshire, making it plausible that she lived there, find a birth record for a woman who lived in Yorkshire whose name matches and whose birth year is plausible, try Googling using that birthdate, unearth a maiden name at an entirely different site, and only when you put all those details together do you stumble across a trace of additional information, perhaps including a marriage license or death notice.

At any rate, Andy's persistence paid off, and as a result I've been able to add new details about writers like Lorna Armistead, Theo Douglas, A. M. Champneys, and Edith Charlotte Brown (who, it turns out, is a niece—preceded by an uncertain number of "greats," of Jane Austen herself). 

Every once in a while, he also uncovered some rather surprising details, as with the life of Maude Annesley, who, we learned, was pregnant when she married her first husband, divorced for adultery with her soon-to-be second husband, widowed from said second husband, and married a third time to a man who eventually had her committed to an asylum for the last seven years of her life.  According to one source (the accuracy of which I can't begin to guarantee, but interesting nevertheless), during her second marriage "[s]he hung around with the Golden Dawn boys—Swinburne, MacGregor Mather, and so on, and became one of Aleister Crowley's girls, and the orgies, booze and drugs, and bizarre mumbo-jumbo that they all incanted while doped up, was slowly driving her insane."  It's rather a wonder she still had time to write…

One of the (less scandalous) clues in the search for Maude Annesley

But I haven't just been sitting back and letting Andy do all the work.  One of my oddest bits of research concerned Ena Limebeer, who published one book of poetry with the Hogarth Press, followed by two later novels.  Now, writers published by the Woolves have mostly been thoroughly researched (I imagine that one could find details of Virginia's preferred toothpaste if one wanted to, such probing and prodding has her life been subjected to), but one source reported that all trace of Limebeer seemed to have been lost and even predicted that details of her life would never be discovered.  Nevertheless, I happened to come across her husband, scholar and theorist David Mitrany, and their marriage date of 1923, which led me to think it wasn't hopeless after all.    And the fact that she renewed one of her copyrights in 1961 told me she had had a long life even after publishing her second and final novel in 1932.

Then, I found an intriguing E-bay auction of a watercolor painting by someone named Ena Limebeer (and let's face it, how many Ena Limebeers are there likely to have been?), which led me to wonder if she might be better known as a painter.  And this led to the discovery of a page from the Japanese version of Wikipedia, of all places, which confirmed her status as a painter and added that "her best period was undoubtedly during the 50's and 60's and pictures from this period are the most sought after by collectors. Those works that were displayed in the Paris Salon are particularly in high demand."  Who would have thought?  And who would have thought that a woman who doesn't even have an English-language Wikipedia page would be comparatively famous in Japan? 

Big in Japan?  Ena Limebeer, from The Bookman

Apart from this, March Cost and Margaret Morrison, previously two authors on my list, have now merged into one (see under "Cost").  A bit of digging revealed that Cost was the frequent and most popular pseudonym of Morrison.  This made me wonder how many other writers might have multiple entries on my list?

A bit more research also revealed that three writers on my list were actually American, so I have removed Marchette Chute, Helen Granville-Barker, and Harriet Henry (who was only just added a few short days ago).  I also removed Sophie O'Brien, who turned out to have been born in Russia, raised in France, married to an Irishman, but only actually resided in Ireland late in life.  That makes her delightfully multicultural but alas not "British" for purposes of this blog.

And finally, I had somehow never come across the real first name of Rumer Godden's novelist sister.  It turns out to have been "Winsome."  Oh dear.  No wonder she chose to go by Jon…

As always, please contact me if you see any inaccuracies or errors in the list, if you know of a writer who's missing, or if anything doesn't function or navigate properly.

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