|One of Olive Katharine Parr's pseudonymous novels|
If you're a regular reader of my posts on new additions to my Overwhelming List, you'll already know how much I love finding siblings, friends, lovers, colleagues, and others connected in some way to authors already on my list. It somehow gives me a feeling of creating a "big picture" of what was happening in the literary world sort of below the radar, as it were—among the authors who aren't already thoroughly canonical and therefore thoroughly researched. Or perhaps it's just that it reminds me that these are real people I'm dealing with, not just names on books. They had real relationships, real heartbreaks and victories, and real, often fascinating, lives outside of the now-forgotten books they wrote.
|Amy (Renie) Shute, from daughter Nerina's memoir|
My most recent update contained a nice selection of these hitherto unknown (to me) connections, and I thought I'd dedicate a post to them.
Did anyone else know that novelist and criminologist F. Tennyson Jesse had an older sister who also wrote? I certainly didn't, until John Herrington pointed out STELLA MARY JESSE to me. We've been able to trace Eve in Egypt (1929), a novel (or possibly a travel book) about a young woman's travels, but mystery lingers: Her Times obituary says that she also published novels under the pseudonym Stella Simson, but if she did all trace of them seems to have been lost—neither the British Library catalogue nor Worldcat produce any results under that name—nor, for that matter, under any likely alternate spellings, assuming the Times could have spelled the name wrong. Did she in fact publish such novels? And if so, what could have become of them? Yet another middlebrow mystery, I'm afraid.
And speaking of mysteries, two of the connections in this update are mysterious ones in a different sense of the word. I already wrote a while back about the discovery (again, with John's help) of the third Hocking sister, JOAN CAREW SHILL, the baby sister of mystery writers Anne Hocking and Elizabeth Nisot. Shill didn't live up to Hocking's or Nisot's output, publishing only a single mystery, Murder in Paradise, in 1946, but it's still nice to have tracked down the real identities of the three novelist daughters mentioned in a bio of novelist Joseph Hocking.
WINIFRED BLAZEY's connection to mystery is a bit more tenuous. She was a close friend and roommate of mystery great Gladys Mitchell for at least a decade or so in the 1920s and 1930s, which includes the time that Mitchell was writing her first novels featuring Dame Beatrice Bradley. The two must have remained close, since Mitchell dedicated her 1947 novel Death and the Maiden to Blazey as well. Blazey later wrote four novels of her own, which seem to also take crime as their theme though they appear to be more psychological than whodunit in nature. The Spectator compared her rather dark debut, Dora Beddoe (1936), to Francis Iles' Malice Aforethought (not entirely favorably). Her fourth and final novel, Grace Before Meat (1942), sounds more cheerful. Described as "a cheerful period piece with a murder thrown in for good measure," it's about a young woman taking charge of a village school.
|Dedication of Gladys Mitchell's Death and the Maiden (1947)|
A couple of connections to girls' author Elsie Oxenham in this update—one quite close, and one distinctly peripheral. I only recently discovered that Oxenham (whose real name was Elsie Dunkerley) had a sister who also wrote fiction. ERICA DUNKERLEY published four novels under the pseudonym Pamela Hamilton, but I couldn't locate any details about them. Has anyone come across them? She later adopted the family pseudonym, publishing a biography of the girls' father John Oxenham under the name Erica Oxenham.
|Olive Katharine Parr (inscribed with her pen name)|
The other connection is quite peripheral indeed. OLIVE KATHARINE PARR, a novelist best known for her activism in fighting for the preservation of Dartmoor, was apparently the inspiration behind John Oxenham's novel The Lady of the Moor. Parr's own fiction sounds a bit overwrought to me, but perhaps I'm wrong?
Then there are two more close connections that I can't believe I hadn't come across before. Leonard Woolf's sister, BELLA SIDNEY WOOLF, was apparently a successful children's author, as well as having written the first Western guidebook to Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka). And I only recently realized that novelist Compton Mackenzie had a wife who was a rather well-known author in her day as well. FAITH COMPTON MACKENZIE (rather odd that use of her husband's first name as part of her own?) was best known for three popular volumes of memoirs about the couple's lives, but later in life she also published two novels, The Crooked Wall (1954) and Tatting (1957).
And finally, it's rare that I come across a mother and daughter as part of the same update, but the fascinating and scandalous Shutes seem to have been exceptions to most rules. AMY SHUTE was famous for a wild personal life and for working her way through six husbands (two of them simultaneously!), but also for the scandalous (and relevantly-titled) novel, The Unconscious Bigamist (1911). I haven't found a lot of details about it, but it seems to have created quite a stir. She wrote a second novel as well, which seems to have gotten less attention. Her daughter, NERINA SHUTE, is much better-known. A prominent film critic and journalist, Nerina also courted scandal. Her debut novel, Another Man's Poison (1931), featured an "ambisextrous" female character. Her biographical novels about literary figures were less controversial, but in her mid-80s she published a memoir, Passionate Friendships (1992), in which she frankly discussed her bisexuality and her various exploits. She also published a memoir of her mother, Come Into the Sunlight (1958), which would surely make interesting reading!
The short bios for each of these authors are below.