Thursday, March 6, 2014

The third Hocking sister

There is a strange satisfaction in linking up relationships between various authors on my Overwhelming List. Whether it's the three generations of mothers and daughters that Elizabeth Bonham (aka Mrs. Henry de la Pasture), E. M. Delafield, and R. M. Dashwood constitute, or the many sisterly pairs—the du Mauriers, the Goddens, Margaret Kennedy and Virginia Pye—or the sisterly trios of the Pullein-Thompsons and Pakenhams, I always have fun tracing these connections.  Then there are more obscure relationships, like children's author Kitty Barne marrying Noel Streatfeild's cousin, or Phillipa Powys losing her early love-interest, Valentine Ackland, to Sylvia Townsend Warner.  And the even looser connections of school chums (Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain or Dorothy Sayers and Doreen Wallace, or perhaps all four of them together in their days at Oxford?) or later-in-life enemies (such fun to trace Virginia Woolf's many scathing comments in her diaries about her fellow women authors) are just too numerous to trace, though I always love stumbling across them.

Anne Hocking, the least elusive of the Hocking sisters
(and the only one of whom I've found a photo)

Along these same lines, then, last week I published a short post about the latest update to my Overwhelming List, and I mentioned a bit of a mystery surrounding what I believed were three Hocking sisters, all daughters of novelist Joseph Hocking and all reportedly novelists in their own right.  I had located two of the literary sisters, but the third remained veiled in obscurity.  Happily, it now seems that that veil can be lifted...

One of Anne's novels, from 1945

After I posted, I realized that I had somehow never thought of presenting the Hocking enigma to John Herrington, an expert researcher on obscure authors who has already helped me out on numerous occasions.  Of course, he immediately replied to my query with the solution to the mystery.  

But first (sorry to be a tease), while I'm at it, a short digression on the Hockings as a whole, because they were, it turns out, quite a literary family.

Joseph Hocking (1860-1937) was a Methodist minister in Cornwall who used fiction as a means of conveying his Christian beliefs.  His very successful though now largely forgotten works included Jabez Easterbrook (1890), Lest We Forget (1901), All Men Are Liars (1914), The Girl Who Defied the World (1922), and Not One in Ten (1933).  Joseph's brother Silas (1850-1935) was also a minister and also the author of Christian-themed fiction, and his sister Salome (????-1927) wrote novels as well, including Norah Lang: The Mine Girl (1886), A Conquered Self (1894), and Belinda the Backward: A Romance of Modern Idealism (1905).  (Salome's final novel appeared in 1905, else she would certainly belong on my list in her own right.)

Salome Hocking in her youth

Of the next generation of Hockings, I had come across the fact that three daughters of Joseph Hocking had published novels as well.  Anne Hocking (1890-1966)—apparently the most successful of the three—was the easiest to find.  She published at least 45 mystery novels beginning in 1915, with the last appearing after her death.  Her work includes titles like Walk Into My Parlour (1934), What A Tangled Web (1937), The Vultures Gather (1945), And No One Wept (1954), and Poisoned Chalice (1959).

More recently, Fernando, a friend of this blog, emailed me that he had came across Elizabeth Nisot (1893-1973), also a mystery writer, who signed some of her novels with a parenthetical "(Elizabeth Hocking)" and was clearly also a daughter of Joseph Hocking.  Perhaps the dual name used on some of her books was an attempt to attract readers by reminding them of her relationship to her more successful older sister?  At any rate, Elizabeth's career seems to have been shorter than Anne's (unless there are other pseudonyms yet to be discovered), but she published at least 10 novels in the 1920s and 1930s, including The Black Swan (1928), Shortly Before Midnight (1934), Hazardous Holiday (1936), Extenuating Circumstances (1937), and False Witness (1938).

Illustration from Joseph Hocking's
The Passion for Life

But I had had no luck at all in tracking down a third Hocking sister, until I asked John about it.  

It turns out that there were actually four Hocking sisters—though one, as far as I can tell, did not publish fiction (she must have felt like an underachiever in this family!). Alizon Trelawney Hocking (1900-1945) was the underachiever, as far as literary work went, but the third novelist among the sisters was actually Joan Carew Hocking (1908-1978), who published a single novel, Murder in Paradise (1946), under her married name, Shill.  This novel was, according to John, written while she was living in Mauritius with her husband, a government minister, but it seems to be virtually nonexistent in libraries, with no record for it either in the British Library catalogue or on Worldcat. (There are copies available on Abe Books though, so the book obviously does exist!)

Is Joan Shill's one novel a lost masterpiece?  Probably not. But I am happy enough knowing that all three of the literary Hocking sisters will soon be represented on my list, as Joan will be added to the next update.  Thanks again to John for solving yet another of my obscure mysteries!

No comments:

Post a Comment

NOTE: The comment function on Blogger is notoriously cranky. If you're having problems, try selecting "Name/URL" or "Anonymous" from the "Comment as" drop-down (be sure to "sign" your comment, though, so I know who dropped by). Some people also find it easier using a browser like Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.

But it can still be a pain, and if you can't get any of that to work, please email me at I do want to hear from you!