Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Update: A Miscellany

This update is a bit of a hodge-podge, comprised of 18 writers who, though some are quite interesting, just didn't fit into my other recent updates or else were inadvertently left out.

Of the below, ELISABETH INGLIS-JONES (her publishers couldn't seem to decide whether to hyphenate her name or not—see photos above and below) seems most intriguing to me.  She is perhaps best known for Peacocks in Paradise (1950), about Hafod Uchtryd, a well-known estate in west Wales, but I am also very interested in her dark, quirky-sounding novels. Her debut, Starved Fields (1929), is discussed here, but it's Pay the Piper (1939), a tragedy set in Wales and about (according to Saturday Review) "two gnarled, complex, vital characters ... a passionate woman who has been denied all passion by the fact of her physical ugliness, and ... a man of much spirit and few scruples, who finds it useful to play the ardent lover," which seems rather bleakly intriguing to me.  Perhaps I'll be writing about it here before too long...

Concordia Merrel in about 1909

CONCORDIA MERREL's romantic fiction seems to have been successful (particularly so among Spanish-language readers, judging from the proportion of book covers of Spanish-language editions available online), but her earlier career and life in general may be of even more interest.  In her youth she was a model and appeared as the "Kodak Girl" in a well-known 1910 ad campaign for that company.  Her son with her first husband was Valentine Dyall, radio's "man in black."

ANNE SCOTT-JAMES, too, was known more for her other work than her literary contributions, but her single novel, In the Mink (1952) is of interest for its portrayal of the British fashion industry, which Scott-James knew well from her early experiences as a journalist for Vogue and Picture Post. I've come across both praise and disdain for the novel, but it seems certain to be a fascinating read.  Later on, Scott-James was known for her books about gardening, including the definitive text about the garden created by Vita Sackville-West, Sissinghurst: The Making of a Garden (1975).

When I started looking more closely at the romance novels of ANN STAFFORD, I discovered that she had written many novels in collaboration with Jane Oliver (already on my list) under the single pseudonym Joan Blair.  Only two or three of these seem to be listed in entries on Oliver in reference works, so clearly some updating needs to happen there!

Marjorie Strachey

I would have thought that I had already come across all the Stracheys and their in-laws who could possibly have written fiction (see Julia and Dorothy Strachey, and Amabel Williams-Ellis, for starters), but I would have been wrong. MARJORIE STRACHEY, sister of Lytton, James, and Dorothy, sister-in-law of Ray, aunt of Julia, and cousin of Amabel (whew!), gets added to the list, and her final novel in particular, The Counterfeits (1927), seems of potential interest, featuring a woman adapting to peacetime life after nursing in WWI.

The works of DOROTHY CHARQUES, focused on realistic portrayals of English country life, also sound of interest, though what jumped out at me most was her response to a Contemporary Authors question about her avocational interests.  Charques listed "walking and sitting."  Now there is a writer after my own heart!

And finally, MARJORIE RIDDELL is best known (to the extent that she is known at all) for her Delafield-esque M Is for Mother (1953), about a young woman with an overbearing mother.  But I found myself even more intrigued by her final two books, described as “career novels” for girls and entitled A Model Beginning (1962) and Press Story (1964).  Who could resist those covers?

The short bios for all 19 authors are all listed below, and the writers have already been added to the main list.

NINA ABBOTT (1863-????)
(pseudonym of Selina Sara Ellington Collinson, aka Nana Collinson)

More research needed; mother of novelist and memoirist Naomi Jacob and herself the author of three novels—Look at the Clock: A Yorkshire Novel (1939), Shadow Drama (1940), and Balance Suspended (1942); Jacob wrote about her in Robert, Nana and—Me: A Family Chronicle (1952).

(née Taylor)

Historical novelist acclaimed in her time for portrayals of English rural life in the past, including in her trilogy—Time's Harvest (1940), The Running Heart (1943), and Between the Twilights (1949)—about a family in the 1870s ruined by a murrain outbreak among their cattle.

(née Tilling)

Actress best known for voicing members of the Buggins family in radio broadcasts spanning 20 years, Constanduros was also an enormously prolific playwright and author of several novels, including Poison Flower (1937), A Nice Fire in the Drawing Room (1939), and On the Run (1943).

CATHERINE COTTON (dates unknown)

More research needed; author of what appear to be three novels—Experience (1922), The Polite Paupers (1929), and Water Into Wine (1930)—as well as a distressing-sounding text called Your Sacred Body (1933), published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.


More research needed (possibly American?); author of three novels in the early 1930s—Happy Sinner (1931), which Forum compared to an Elizabeth von Arnim novel (and found it inferior), The House of Wives (1932), and Sold for a Song (1933).

(née Hannay)

More research needed; author of at least two mystery novels, The Corpse in the Church (1934) and The Hand, or, Mystery at Number Ten (1937), as well as several children's books, including The Unexpected Adventure (1935) and Bulldog Sheila, or, The Gang (1936); details are sketchy.

Portrait of Elisabeth Inglis-Jones


Author of six novels—Starved Fields (1929), Crumbling Pageant (1932), The Loving Heart (1942), Lightly He Journeyed (1946), Aunt Albinia (1948), and the intriguingly Brontëesque Pay thy Pleasure (1939); later known for biographies and for Peacocks in Paradise (1950), about Hafod Uchtryd.

(married name Banbury)

Mills & Boon author of the 1930s whose work appear to be romances set in exotic locales; titles include The Dancer of El Touran (1931), Where Caravans Pass By (1935), The Ladies of Shalm-a-Dar (1936), and Tropical Island (1937).

ALICE ARMSTRONG LOW (dates unknown)
(aka Mrs. Cranston Low)

More research needed; Worldcat classes her under Scottish writers, but unless she wrote under another name I haven't uncovered, she apparently published only a single novel, Langshaws (1934).

(pseudonym of Mary Phyllis Joan Morton, née Logan, other married name Dyall)

Model featured in the 1910 "Kodak Girl" ad campaign, and a prolific romantic novelist of the 1920s and 1930s; her titles include Ordeal by Marriage (1926), Julia Takes Her Chance (1926), Sally Among the Stars (1930), The Cads' Party (1931), and Adam—and Some Eves (1931).

MAY F[????]. NEVILLE (dates unknown)

More research needed; apparently the author of numerous "newsprint novels" of the 1920s to 1940s; titles include A Soul's Bondage (1923), Love in a Lilac Lane (1936), Her Sister's Secret (1937), Her Wedding Day (1941), A Runaway Wife (1942), and Only the Governess (1943).

AISHIE PHARALL (dates unknown)

Author of four novels of the 1920s and 1930s, including at least two Jazz Age novels which appear to make romantic use of post-war settings—Middle Mists (1923) and The Little Less (1924)—plus two more, Jocelyn Calls the Tune (1932) and Infidelity (1934).

MARJORIE RIDDELL (dates unknown)

Best known for M Is for Mother (1953), a Delafield-esque comedy about a young woman with an overbearing mother, Riddell wrote three subsequent books—The Big City (1958) and two “career novels” for girls, A Model Beginning (1962) and Press Story (1964).

ANNE SCOTT-JAMES (1913-2009)
(married names Verschoyle, Hastings, and Lancaster)

Best known for her books about gardening, including Sissinghurst: The Making of a Garden (1975), about the garden created by Vita Sackville-West, Scott-James began as a journalist for Vogue and Picture Post, which experience forms the background for her one novel, In the Mink (1952).

Anne Scott-James on safari in Africa

ANN STAFFORD (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of Ann Pedlar, aka Joan Blair [with Jane Oliver])

Children's author and author of romance and historical novels from the 1930s to 1960s, including some written with Jane Oliver; titles include Green Eyes for Jealousy (1936), Love and Sister Lorna (1939), Cuckoo Green (1941), Look Again, Lovers! (1945), and Blossoming Rod (1955).


Sister of Dorothy and Lytton, Marjorie Strachey published a collection, Savitri and Other Women (1920), and three novels—David the Son of Jesse (1921), The Nightingale (1925), about Chopin, and The Counterfeits (1927), about a woman adapting to peacetime life after nursing in WWI.

JOAN SUTER (dates unknown)

More research needed; apparently the author of one novel, East of Temple Bar (1946), described as being about Fleet Street.


Best known for her three volumes of memoirs—Greenhorn: A Twentieth Century Childhood (1973), One Woman's Story (1976), and Alone (1979)—Tibble also published a novel, The Apple Reddens (1924), set in Yorkshire, and collaborated with her husband on a biography of John Clare.

Pamela Wynne

PAMELA WYNNE (1879-1959)
(pseudonym of Winifred Mary Scott, née Watson)

Prolific and successful romance novelist from the 1920s to 1950s, Wynne's first major success was Ann's An Idiot (1923), which became a movie called Dangerous Innocence; other titles are Penelope Finds Out (1926), Love In A Mist (1932), Love Begins At Forty (1936), and Merry Widows (1943).


  1. Scott, as a new follower I can see you are going to be very dangerous for my bookshelves! I just received two Mary Clavering books in the mail I just had to have after reading you. Now I have to find Wynne Hickey's mysteries and something by Inglis-Jones and Armstrong Low would fit right in with my Read Scotland challenge! I love the obscure ones! Such lovely covers on the books!

    1. You would think second hand book dealers would be giving me a little kickback, wouldn't you, Peggy? But alas no. I hope you enjoy the Molly Claverings, and if you do read Hickey or Inglis-Jones or Alice Armstrong Low, you must let me know what they're like and what you think of them! The latter is probably one of the most obscure on my whole list. I only came across her by accident on Worldcat, and could find no information about her at all.

  2. Good heavens, a whole raft of authors I have never heard of - only Anne Scott-James is familiar to me. I love this quote from her obituary in the Guardian: "A scholarship took her to Somerville College, Oxford, where she won a first in classics in the first part of her degree. She was rightly proud of this and, on at least one occasion, it stood her in good stead. As a witness in the celebrated Lady Chatterley-Penguin Books trial (1960), the obtuse prosecution asked sneeringly what worth was her opinion as a mere woman journalist. She replied calmly and crushingly that she had an Oxford first." (I am old enough, by the way, to remember that book trial very well)

    What an amazing name Concordia Merrell is! And I can't believe there is yet another Strachey.....

    1. Cestina, that must have been such a fascinating trial to follow "live," as it were. Have you read Scott-James's novel? It does sound seductive! And it seems from looking at her bio briefly that she was quite an interesting person.

    2. No I haven't read her novel but I think she was quite something as a person.

      Concordia's book "Ordeal by Marriage" reminds me of one of the advice books I collect: "How to stay happy, though married".....

    3. Ordeal by Marriage is one of my favorite titles from this batch. And the cover is actually rather nice too, with the dark figure brooding over a desk (I think?) while all the other couples frolic in the background.

  3. Some of those covers are just amazing - I think I would buy the books for those alone!

    1. I know, aren't they wonderful? You can tell, I'm sure, that I am completely infatuated with dust jackets from this period. Today's jackets just don't seem as interesting, but perhaps that's just a matter of perspective?

  4. Really, Scott, I'm beginning to suspect you have a time machine, if you're actually acquiring these lovelies. (Or are you just collecting pics of the covers). I'm truly stunned by all the many many different books and writers that flowed through the literary world and vanished.

    And I have to say that Ashes of Desire is the single most astounding book cover I've seen in a long time. It's absolutely delicious. And by the author of "Ann's an Idiot", no doubt another immortal tale. But really, John Cleese in striped pyjamas, being vamped by a truly slutty flapper (IS that a breast on display??) And he's looking totally unimpressed with the whole situation.

    1. Oh heavens no, Susan! I couldn't possibly afford all of these books, nor could I afford the full-scale library that would be required to store them. But I do love to fantasize, and imagine myself book shopping in these years and coming across such lovely (and/or odd) covers.

      I THINK what you're seeing on the Ashes of Desire cover is the slutty flapper's back and side, but I could be mistaken. And you're absolutely right, the man does look like John Cleese in the Fawlty Towers era!

    2. I'm pretty sure it's her back and sides - she would be in some pain were it to be her breast, squeezed at that angle!

    3. I love how John Cleese is clutching at her with a talon-like grip. It's almost making me want to read the novel to try to figure out what drama is being represented here! :-)

  5. Oh, I couldn't resist....

    1. Lovely, Susan. I don't think that was there when I was preparing the post, because I really tried to find a cover image of Ann's an Idiot. With such an irresistible title, I felt I had to see what the cover looked like.

      I've added the image at the bottom of the post. Thanks for doing some of my work for me!


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