Sunday, March 30, 2014

Update: Odds and ends

This update features a mixed bag of all sorts of writers, many of which sound as interesting as their books (or, in some cases, more so).  For instance, there is apparently a whole sub-genre of British women writers whose psychic abilities (purported or—who knows?—real) formed the basis of their fame, and this update contains not one, but two of them!

Geraldine Cummins

GERALDINE CUMMINS, who called herself a medium, was also a suffragist, playwright, and author of two novels and a story collection.  Her fiction reportedly dealt with feminist themes, but she also published a memoir, Unseen Adventures (1951), which surely dealt with her psychic experiences.

NELL ST. JOHN MONTAGUE seems to have preferred the term "clairvoyante" to describe her particular skills.  She even published a guide to fortune telling, The Red Fortune Book, but of course her appearance on my list is due to the three novels she wrote in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  She was one of at least two or three writers on my list to be killed in a World War II bombing raid.

I thought I had exhausted every possible Edwardian author in my series of updates a while back, but two more have crept in to this update.  Both GEORGETTE AGNEW and MARY STUART BOYD published their final novels in 1911—just squeaking past my 1910 cutoff.  Both sound like they could be entertaining.

This catchall update also has three more authors of World War I books.  There's the mysterious THOMASINA ATKINS (the pseudonym of "Private [W.A.A.C.] on Active Service"), whose true identity has never, as far as I can tell, been revealed, but whose charming letters about the war in France make for entertaining reading.  MONICA COSENS was later a playwright and children's author, but is perhaps most remembered for her book, Lloyd George's Munition Girls (1916).  And LOUISE HEILGERS was a popular periodical writer whose war stories appeared in Somewhere in France: Stories of the Great War (1915).

Dedication of the letters of Thomasina Atkins

And what would an update be without a couple of World War II writers as well.  MONICA FELTON was known primarily for her later writings about the culture and politics of North Korea and India, but she published a single novel, To All the Living (1945), which dealt with factory workers in wartime England, and I'm finding that one quite tempting.  And although BARBARA SKELTON qualified for my list because her first novel, A Young Girl's Touch, appeared in 1956, her later memoirs, including her experiences in wartime, are the books that are calling my name.

Although the portrait above might not reflect how she looked by the time she became a novelist (it's the best I can do for a photo of her, however), JULIET SOSKICE was not only the sister of one of my favorite modernist authors, Ford Madox Ford, but her memoir about growing up in a rather bohemian family sounds quite enticing in its own right.

Finally, there's little doubt that VIOLET VAN DER ELST's own rags-to-riches-to-rags story is as interesting as anything in her two collections of stories about the supernatural.  Van Der Elst was a working class girl who made a fortune creating a new shaving cream, but then lost it during her passionate lifelong battle against the death penalty.  The cover of her book on the topic (above) is surely a masterpiece of ominous, overwrought imagery—not to mention the rather odd image of Van Der Elst herself looking rather debonair at the foot of the gallows).

Violet Van Der Elst

The complete list of 38 authors is below.  All have already been added to the main list.

(married name Easdale, aka Francis Adoney, aka Gladys Ellen Killin)

Described in her archives as having spent her life "on the margins of the London literary and musical scene," Adeney numbered Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West among her friends; she published a colorful memoir, Middle Age, 1885-1932 (1935) and one novel, Don't Blame the Stars (1951).

(née Christian, aka Nevin Halys)

Playwright, poet, and author of light romantic fiction; titles include The Countess: A Summer Idyll (1905), The Night that Brings Out Stars (1908), and The Bread Upon the Waters (1911); she does not appear to have written fiction after 1911.

THOMASINA ATKINS (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of "Private [W.A.A.C.] on Active Service"; real identity unknown)

Author of The Letters of Thomasina Atkins (1918), a lively and entertaining record of World War I as witnessed by a W.A.A.C. stationed in France; as far as I've been able to determine, her true identity has never been discovered (the pseudonym feminizes the generic term for a male soldier).

VIOLA BANKES (1900-????)

Daughter of the Bankes family whose estate, Kingston Lacy, she later memorialized in A Dorset Heritage (1953), her novel Shadow-Show (1922) was a runner-up for a John Long Best First Novel contest; a second book, Men for Pieces, was advertised but seems never to have appeared.

MARJORIE BINNIE (c1894-????)
(née Cope, other married name Dove?)

Apparently the author of only a single novel, Women with Men (1935), set in Africa, Binnie spent her early life in Singapore before moving to South Africa to farm with her husband.

NOREEN BOND (1902-1981)
(pseudonym of Nancy Helen Beckh)

More research needed; author of two novels, Hide Away (1936) and Take Care (1938), but so far I can find no information about them.

MARY STUART BOYD (1860-1937)
(née Kirkwood)

Boyd started her brief writing career with two travel books, followed by eight novels published 1902 to 1911, including With Clipped Wings (1902), The Misses Make-Believe (1906), The Glen (1910), and The Mystery of the Castle (1911), after which she appears to have stopped publishing.

MARY BYRON (????-1935)
(née Anderson)

Forgotten author of two poetry collections, A Voice from the Veld (1913) and The Owls (1920), and one collection of stories, Dawn and Dusk in the High Veld (1931), described as: "Vivid short stories and true sketches of life among the scattered farms of South Africa."

(née Somerville)

Author of four novels—O'Reilly of the Glen (1918), Margot (1918), Sons of the Settlers (1920), and The Lad (1923); the last, at least, sounds a bit overwrought: "Silvia's life tragedy lies in the friends and surroundings to which she sees [her son] doomed through the poverty of her married life."

(née Latham)

Wife of Indian High Court judge Sir Charles William Chitty, after her husband retirement and relocation back to England, Chitty published a single novel, The Black Buddha (1926); she had earlier published several short stories in periodicals.

KAY CORNWALLIS (1888-1969)
(pseudonym of Irene Wallis, married name Jones)

Author of new novels of the 1930s—Jeopardy Incurred (1933) and Travel Stained (1934); the latter is about an English family relocating to Boston, and the nearly-disastrous flirtation of the young wife.

Monica Cosens

MONICA COSENS (dates unknown)

Playwright and children's author (mostly in collaboration with Brenda Girvin), probably best known today for her gung-ho World War I memoir, Lloyd George's Munition Girls (1916), which paints a humorous but significant portrait of one area of women's war experience.


Irish novelist, playwright, suffragist, and psychic medium; author of two plays for the Abbey Theatre, two novels with feminist themes—The Land They Loved (1919) and Fires of Beltane (1936)—a collection of stories called Variety Show (1959), and a memoir, Unseen Adventures (1951).

(aka Barbara Dew Roberts, aka B. Roberts)

Historian and author of at least four novels, some or all of them historical in subject, including Still Glides the Stream (1940), Some Trees Stand (1945), The Island Feud (1947), and The Charlie Trees: A Jacobite Novel (1951).


Originally a writer on education and domestic economy, Dodd published around a dozen novels, including A Vagrant Englishwoman (1905), Queen Anne Farthings (1928), Scarlet Gables (1929), Bells of Thyme (1930), and Paul and Perdita (1932), and a biography of Mary Shelley (1933).

MARIBEL EDWIN (1895-1985)
(née Thomson)

Novelist and children's author whose works include The Valiant Jester (1930), Windfall Harvest (1931), Sound Alibi (1935), Atmosphere for Gloria (1935), and Return to Youth (1937), as well as Wild Life Stories (1933), a nature title lavishly illustrated by Raymond Sheppard.

CICELY ERSKINE (1873-1969)
(née Quicke)

Author of several sex education and birth control books in the 1920s, Erskine also wrote what appears to be a novel called Whisper (1931), but online information about any of her titles is virtually nonexistent.

MONICA FELTON (1906-1970)
(née Page)

Later known for her writings on North Korea and India, including That's Why I Went: The Record of a Journey to North Korea (1953) and A Child Widow's Story (1966), Felton began her career with one novel, To All the Living (1945), dealing with wartime factory life in England.

(aka Henrietta Heilgers)

Popular periodical author and novelist in the 1910s and 1920s; many of her stories were collected in books like Tabloid Tales (1911) and Somewhere in France: Stories of the Great War (1915); she later wrote novels including Babette Wonders Why (1916) and The Dark Lamp (1927).

MARY HOLDER (dates unknown)
(married name Bligh)

Stage actress with the Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespearean Company and author of six novels of the 1930s—The Dusky Highway (1932), The Strange Tale of Eastermain (1933), Radiant Interlude (1933), Rich Earth (1934), To-day Is Ours (1935), and Moonlight in Winter (1937).


Author of six novels of dark psychological drama; Hanging Johnny (1927), about "a misunderstood executioner," Relentless (1930), The Maiden (1932), The Rising (1939), Amiel (1941), about the horrors of war, and A Robin Redbreast in a Cage (1950), about an acquitted murderer.

(née Ethel Howe, married name Smith, aka R. Hernekin Baptist)

Best known for editing (ghostwriting?) the memoirs of Alfred Aloysius Horn, a prominent African trader, Lewis also wrote several adventures making use of her own knowledge of Africa, including The Harp (1925), The Flying Emerald (1925), Mantis (1926), and Wild Deer (1933).

(née Chalmers)

More research needed; author of four novels in the 1900s and 1910s; The Shade of the Acacia (1907), set amidst foxhunting, deals with a man’s love for his best friend’s wife; other titles are The Little Tin Gods (1901), Sons of the Blood (1910), and Sink Red Sun (1914).

(married name Methol)

More research needed; apparently the author of a single novel, Content (1925), about which little information is available.

(pseudonym of Eleanor Barry, née Lucie-Smith, sometimes given as Standish-Barry)

Clairvoyant and author of three novels—Under Indian Stars (1929), The Poison Trail (1930), and Love That Ruins! (1931); she also wrote a memoir, Revelations of a Society Clairvoyant (1926); she died in an air raid on London in August of 1944.

NANCY PRICE (1880-1970)
(married name Maude)

Actress, theatre director, founder of the People's Theatre, travel and nature writer, playwright, poet, memoirist, and novelist (!!); Price published numerous books about the English countryside, as well as a story collection, Jack by the Hedge (1942) and one novel, Ta-mera (1950).

LETTICE [MILNE] RAE (1882-1959)

Author of a history of the Ladies' Edinburgh Debating Society, Ladies in Debate (1936), Rae also wrote at least five novels—The Stranger on the Aventine (1913), Mr. Suffer-long (1920), The Victorious Mile (1928), The Auld Alliance (1931), and The Woman in the Crowd (1940).


Irish author of a single novel, The Tenant of Sea Cottage (1916), about which little information is available.

OLIVE SALTER (1897-1976)

Singer and stage performer, editor of Motor Cycling magazine in the 1910s, and author of several novels, including Martha and Mary (1921), God's Wages (1922), Out of Bondage (1923), and Magda Korda (1934).


More research needed; playwright and novelist, author of at least three novels—Unwelcome Visitors (1926), The Wrong Wife: A Novel of the Twenties (1932), and The Turn of the Wheel (1938).

Barbara Skelton

(married names Connolly, Weidenfeld, and Jackson)

Author of two novels—A Young Girl's Touch (1956) and the darkly humorous A Love Match (1969)—and one story collection, Born Losers (1965), Skelton is best known for her memoirs Tears Before Bedtime (1987) and Weep No More (1989), the former of which includes her experiences in WWII.

One of Barbara Skelton's novels has
been reissued as a "Faber Find"

(née Hueffer)

Granddaughter of artist Ford Madox-Brown and sister of Ford Madox Ford, Soskice wrote an acclaimed memoir of her bohemian youth, Chapters from Childhood (1921), and at least five novels, including A Woman Scorned (1925), A Gay Rover (1931), and The Woman of Shadows (1937).

GLADYS ST. JOHN-LOE (1893-1977)
(née Magson)

Playwright and author of at least five novels of the 1920s and 1930s, including Spilled Wine (1922), Beggar's Banquet (1923), The Door of Beyond (1926), Who Feeds the Tiger (1935), and Smoking Altars (1936), as well as a story collection, Dust of the Dawn and Other Stories (1922).

(aka G. G. Pendarves, aka Marjory E. Lambe, aka ????)

A prominent author of ghost stories most of whose works, according to Richard Dalby, were published in periodicals and remain uncollected; the British Library does show a single novel, Crag's Foot Farm: A Novel of Leicestershire (1931).

Violet Van Der Elst in 1956

(née Dodge)

A fascinating rags-to-riches-to-rags story in herself, Van Der Elst was a working class girl, made a fortune creating a new shaving cream, then lost it fighting the death penalty; her two story collections are The Torture Chamber (1937) and Death of the Vampire Baroness and other Thrilling Stories (1945).

MARY WOODS (c1866-????)
(née Woodroffe, aka Daniel Woodroffe, aka Mrs. J. C. Woods)

Author of at least five novels as Daniel Woofroffe and one as Mrs. J. C. Woods; these are Her Celestial Husband (1895), Tangled Trinities (1901), The Evil Eye (1903), The Beauty Shop (1905), The Rat-Trap (1912), and The Quicksand (1933).


Authors of a single novel, Every Dog (1929), a far-fetched-sounding farce about a businessman trying to escape his responsibilities; The Spectator called the book “tedious, though funny in places.”

(married name Martienssen)

More research needed; author of seven novels 1935-1939, but apparently no others?; titles include Storm Before Sunrise (1935), The Door Stood Open (1936), The Unfinished Symphony (1937), The Lonely Guest (1937), Stray Cat (1938), Doves in Flight (1938), and Son of the Dark (1939).


  1. Scott, you must put so much time into researching all these wonderful books and authors! We appreciate it. Even If I'll probably never come across most of these books it gives me a treasure hunt list and I do so love a treasure hunt!

    1. Thanks, Peggy! I have a blast doing this research, and it continues to amaze me that there are still so many more authors that were successful for a while and then totally forgotten. Hope you find some interesting ones in the mix!


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