Wednesday, February 25, 2015

UPDATE: School story authors (S-Z)

Perhaps it's a "parting is such sweet sorrow" kind of thing, or perhaps it's that there really are just a particularly large number of enticing school story authors from the end of the alphabet (and some particularly enticing cover art as well). Regardless, I found many of the authors in this final post about the numerous purveyors of this genre added to my Overwhelming List recently to be quite alluring. I can see that my flirtation with girls' school tales is likely to become an extended romance.

Starting with the ones that are likely to remain little more than fantasies (unless I win the lottery, which is, I suppose, always a possibility, if not one to bank on):

St. Brenda's 'Headache' by ANNE SAUNDERS is apparently a favorite with collectors despite a frenetic and far-fetched plot, with the result that it's also impossible to purchase without mortgaging your house.

I already made an attempt to track down SUSAN WYCHWOOD's one book, French Leave (1936), which is set in a small boarding school in a French provincial town and which Sims and Clare call "charming and authentic." But I had no luck at all.

And I've also already searched for a copy of DAPHNE STANFORD's one school story, June Harcourt (1940), which is set at a small French pensionnat and which Sims and Clare note might be intended for adult readers as much as for children. But alas, no luck there either.

A lovely illustration from Dorothy Smith's
Those Greyland Girls

Then there were three fairly big names in girls' stories who were included in my most recent update, though I have to admit I hadn't ever come across any of them until my recent interest in the genre.

I've already had a chance to sample a novel by JANE SHAW, after stumbling across her travel-themed tale Crooks Tour at the last library book sale. I enjoyed that one enough to pick up a second title, which I haven't read yet. Neither of my books are school stories—apparently Shaw specialized more in holiday and family tales—but she did publish five school stories. Sims & Clare suggest that no less a figure than Wodehouse is a worthy comparison, so I'm sure I'll be checking out more of Shaw's work.

ETHEL MARY TALBOT, meanwhile, is definitely known for her school stories, published over the course of nearly three decades. Her books sound like more or less the quintessential school stories—gung-ho, cheerful, and game-centric—but Sims & Clare note that the settings of her schools are generally unusual and interesting and she has a particular interest in their local history and lore.

And CONSTANCE MARY WHITE also wrote a significant array of school stories, including some relatively innovative ones, such as her four stories set in a ballet school and several more that were the earliest to incorporate the vogue for pony tales into a school setting. For some reason, however, the title that most calls to me is School Afloat, which is set on a cruise ship. I'm picturing The Love Boat with schoolgirls?

Sisters ETHEL MARY TURNER and LILIAN TURNER demonstrate the difficulties inherent in deciding what makes a "British" writer. I usually use as a determining factor the country in which an author spent her formative years, because it seems to me that there is something inescapable about the culture in which one grows up. Thus, I will generally consider British an author born in the U.S. but who moved to England in infancy, and will exclude an author born in Scotland who moved to Australia at age 1. But what on earth to do when one relocates dead in the middle of one's formative years? The Turners were born in Yorkshire but their mother relocated them to Australia when they were 8 and 11, respectively. The fact that Ethel is known as the author of a definitively Australian classic, Seven Little Australians (1894), which spawned several sequels, certainly qualifies her to be considered an Australian author, but I'm still erring on the side of inclusiveness by adding both sisters to my list as well.

But Ethel Turner is also of interest for another reason. One of her early stories, called "The Child of the Children," first published in 1897 in The Windsor Magazine, dealt with a group of upper class girls who attempt to transform a girl from the wrong side of the railroad tracks and pass her off as one of their class. If that plot sounds a bit familiar, it apparently did to writer James Bennett as well, who in 1958 caused a bit of a stir by suggesting that George Bernard Shaw had stolen Turner's idea for his 1914 play Pygmalion, which of course became the stage musical and Oscar-winning film My Fair Lady. Considering that the same idea has been recycled an unfathomable number of times in other films and TV sitcoms over the intervening decades, and considering that makeover plots have a long and successful history even before Turner's story, it seems entirely possible that Shaw could have developed the plot all on his own, but it's still rather entertaining to imagine that the venerable playwright might have swiped his most famous plot from a schoolgirl tale.

Surely one of the oddest covers I've seen for a school story?

There are a few more authors in this update who interest me and who actually might be attainable, at least with a bit of persistance:

CONSTANCE SAVERY's two school stories—Redhead at School (1951) and The Golden Cap (1966)—are characterized by Savery's Christian beliefs, but Sims and Clare also note that she is "unusually aware of style, and the dialogue in particular is lively and convincing, bringing the characters alive."

AMY E. SEYMOUR wrote only three school stories—A Schoolgirl's Secret (1929), Two New Girls (1931), and The Fourth Form Crusaders (1932)—but they include such unusual plots as a girl putting herself through school by publishing in a magazine and another who organizes a poverty-reduction campaign in the local village, which makes them seem rather irresistible.

What on earth is being portrayed in this
illustration from Frances Wright's The Mystery
of the Trees

And who wouldn't be tempted by the Sims and Clare assessment of HELEN H. WATSON, who wrote a dozen or so books, three of them among the earlier examples of school tales?: "Watson rejects both the moral struggle of the previous generation of school stories and the learning-to-conform theme which was beginning to develop: her concern is to depict life as it really is in a large, unmoneyed family or a big school, and she succeeds very well."

And along similar lines, perhaps, as well as from about the same time, LILIAN FRANCES WEVILL's two school stories—Betty's First Term (1908) and Betty's Next Term (1912)—are also praised by Sims & Clare for their low-key realism and convincing characters. Still more for the TBR list!

Have we exhausted the girls' school story genre now? Well, if it's true that an updated edition of the Sims and Clare Encyclopaedia is in the works from Girls Gone By, perhaps they've unearthed a few more interesting writers to add to their catalogue?

ANNE SAUNDERS (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of three children's books in the 1940s and 1950s, including the rare and far-fetched but popular girls' school story St Brenda's 'Headache' (1951); her other titles are a story collection, Happiest Ending (1945) and The Prisoner in the Tower (1948).

MARJORIE SAUNDERS (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of three girls' school stories Sims & Clare describe as "competent"—Bel's Dragons (1947), Madge's Sister (1949), and Leave It to Madge (1953).

Author of numerous children's books and adult novels including two with a school component—Redhead at School (1951) and The Golden Cap (1966); others are Pippin's House (1931), Moonshine in Candle Street (1937), Blue Fields (1947), Scarlet Plume (1953), and Breton Holiday (1963).

(married name Webster)
Author of three girls' school stories—A Schoolgirl's Secret (1929), Two New Girls (1931), and The Fourth Form Crusaders (1932)—which contain an element of social awareness; other works include Taking the Plunge and Other Stories (1934) and Carry On, Cumberledge! (1937).

JANE SHAW (1910-2000)
(pseudonym of Jean Bell Shaw Patrick, married name Evans, aka Jean Bell)
Prolific author of more than three dozen children's books, including family and adventure tales as well as the Susan series of school-related stories; titles include Breton Holiday (1939), Highland Holiday (1942), Susan Pulls the Strings (1952), Crooked Sixpence (1958), and Crooks Tour (1962).

MARY SHREWSBURY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of at least five children's books, including the school story Mop Goes to School (1937); others include Adventure House (1924), The Secret of the Sea (1928), Betty of the Brownies (1929), and All Aboard the 'Bundy': A Sea-Ranger Story (1934).

ELISABETH SMEDLEY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of three children's books about "the Jays"; the first, The Jays (1951), is set at school; the other titles are The Jays Write a Book (1941) and A Job for the Jays (1951).

D[ORA]. M[ANSFIELD]. PERCY SMITH (dates unknown)
(Sims & Clare say "Doreen," but British Library gives "Dora")
Author of school stories for both boys and girls, as well as other children's fiction; titles include Stolen Feathers (1914), The Lamb House Plot (1926), The Vicarage Twins (1930), A Knight in Petticoats (1931), The Two Elizabeths (1935), and A Wagon-Load of Monkeys (1936).

DOROTHY SMITH (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Those Greylands Girls (1944), set in an orphanage school. Sims & Clare bemoan the fact that Smith never published a sequel.

IRENE SMITH (1900-????)
More research needed; author of two girls' school stories, The Imp at Westcombe (1956) and Chester House Wins Through (1967).

Author of about 10 children's books of the 1930s and early 1940s, including school and Guide stories; works include Guide Margery (1931), Secretary Susan (1933), Winning Her Spurs (1935), Three Girls in a Boat (1938), The Hopeful Journey (1939), and Peggy Speeds the Plough (1941).

(married name Tettmar)
Author of three works of children's fiction—Wheels to the West (1953), The Family at the Yellow House (1956), her one school story, and Jen of the Yellow House (1959).

Author of two children's books, The Gilroy Family (1919) and Lion Hearts (1920), the latter of which is a girls' school story; she also published a work of non-fiction about Bath (1922).

ISOBEL ST. VINCENT (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of three girls' school stories—A Rebel of the Fourth (1950), Mill School Mystery (1952), and Three in the Fourth (1952)—and a biography of Madame Tussaud called Young Marie (1952).

DAPHNE STANFORD (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single book, June Harcourt (1940), set in a French pensionnat and perhaps intended as much for adults as for children.

ASTRAEA STARFORTH (dates unknown)
More research needed; surely a pseudonym, Starforth published one girls' school story, The School in Spain (1931), and one adult romantic novel, The Loth Word (1939).

ANNIE M. STONELEY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Pat From Kilmara (1949), which is unusual for being Irish, though Sims & Clare found it "unmemorable."

Children's author who published two early girls' school stories—Little Maid Marigold (1902) and Prosperity's Child (1910)—as well as numerous other children's books, including Cousin Becky's Champions (1909), Little Soldiers All (1916), and Whilst Father Was Fighting (1917).

Illustration from Frances Stratton's
Nan the Circus Girl

FRANCES STRATTON (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of one girls' school story listed by Sims & Clare, Lighted Candles, or, The Girls of Barden School (1921), and several other girl's stories, including Nan the Circus Girl (1898), Peggy, A Schoolgirl (1901), and Branches of the Vine (1903), a sequel to Peggy.

MAY SULLIVAN (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of five school-related stories, three in the "Pocket Library" series—Sunnydene School, Chums of Sunnydene, and Sunnydene School Again (all 1941)—and two mentioned by Sims & Clare, Molly of Highdene House (1949) and Diana of Cliff End School (1955).

E[MILY]. M[AY]. SUTTON (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of several children's books, including one girls' school story, Making Trouble for Bryony (1951), as well as The Magic Tree (1943), 'All That Glitters—' (1944), The Spell That Went Wrong (1947), and The Lonely Giant (1948).

ETHEL M[ARY]. TALBOT (1880-1944)
One of the major authors of girls' school stories from 1919 to the 1940s; titles include The School on the Moor (1919), Betty at St Benedick's (1924), The School at None-Go-By (1926), Schoolgirl Rose (1928), The Mascot of the School (1934), and The Warringtons in War-Time (1940).

DORIS TAYLOR (dates unknown)
Author of religious works and children's fiction, including two girls' school stories, Victory for Vera (1955) and The Girl from India (1961), as well as The Magic Plane (1947) and Life-Saver Lyn (1954).

MARJORIE TAYLOR (c1905-????)
Author of three girls' Guide stories, all set in Scotland with Scottish heroines, including With the Speedwell Patrol (1938), Prior's Island (1940), and The Highland School (1940), the last with a backdrop of school.

URSULA TEMPLE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of one girls' school story which just barely fits the date range of this list—Form IIIB (1910)—and three earlier titles, Through Strange Paths (1903), The Squire's Will (1907), and When Mother Was in India (1907).

(married name Bennett)
Author of at least four children's books, including Patsy Comes to Stay (1938), Jill Makes Good (1941), The Girls of Sweetbriar Farm (1946), and The Girl Who Couldn't Fit In (1947), the last of which is a girls' school story.

(née Burwell, changed to Turner upon mother's remarriage, married name Curlewis, British Library gives middle name Sybil)
Children's author born in the U.K. but associated more with Australia; her most famous work was Seven Little Australians (1894), which spawned three sequels; other titles include Three Little Maids (1900), The Secret of the Sea (1913), Laughing Water (1920), and The Ungardeners (1925).

(née Burwell, changed to Turner upon mother's remarriage, married name Thompson)
Sister of Ethel Mary Turner; author of two Australian school stories—The Girl from the Back Blocks (1914) and Jill of the Fourth Form (1924)—and about 20 other works of fiction, including April Girls (1911), The Happy Heriots (1926), and Ann Chooses Glory (1928).

F. M. TYLER (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of two girls' school stories, Bunty of Dormitory B (1929) and Patty's First Term (1929).

MADGE UNSWORTH (1888-1960)
Salvation Army member and author of one school story, Wilminster High School and Wilminster Old Girls (1929); her later writings are all religious-themed non-fiction and biography.

Illustration from Madge Unsworth's
Wilminster High School

ALICIA VALLIS (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, The Secret of St Mary's (1947).

PHYLLIS WALLACE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, 'Well Played, Midhurst' (1926).

ELIZABETH WALMSLEY (dates unknown)
Author of five widely-varied girls' school stories—Jonquil (1926), A Misfit at School (1926), Mary Court's Company (1925), The Wishing Chair (1926), and The Princess Imelda (1928)—and two additional children's titles, Pom and Pearly (1926) and The Prodigal Son (1927).

(née Rogers)
Author of more than a dozen tales for children (and adults?), some historical; Sims & Clare single out three, two of which—Peggy, D.O. (1910) and Peggy, S.G. (1911)—feature Peggy O'Rourke, while the third, The Making of a Heroine (1926), is something of a satire of traditional school stories.

PENELOPE WEBBE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, The Autumn Term at St Gabriel's (1950).

ELIZABETH WEEDON (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Geraldine's Rival (1927).

EDITH A. WENDON (dates unknown)
A lesser-known author of three girls' school stories, including The Girl from the Backwoods (1932), The Golden Girl (1935), and The Schoolgirl Pilot (1936); Sims & Clare report that her work shows the influence of Angela Brazil.

Author of two early school stories—Betty's First Term (1908) and Betty's Next Term (1912)—praised by Sims & Clare for their low-key realism and convincing characters.

VERA [MARY] WHEATLEY (1890-1975)
(née Semple)
Author of one girls' school story, Lilias Goes to School (1928), and of other novels, some of which appear to be romance; titles include Devices and Desires (1926), Single-Handed (1931), A Candle of Understanding (1947), Summer with the Morrisons (1954), and Love Has Many Tongues (1964).

MARGARET WHEELER (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of two girls' stories, The Amazing Padre (1924) and One Term at School (1925), the latter of which is a school story.

(née Lockett)
Prolific author of girls' school and other fiction for teens, including four set in a ballet school (1951-58), which earn qualified praise from Sims & Clare; others include A Sprite at School (1947), Kay of Kingfishers (1954), Three for the Shield (1960), and School Afloat (1965), set on a cruise ship.

HEATHER WHITE (1902-1979)
(pseudonym of Jess[ie] Mary Mardon Ducat, married name Foster)
Novelist and author of Guiding adventures and and two school stories, The New Broom at Prior's Rigg (1938) and The Two B's and Becky (1939); novels include The Golden Road (1931), Daffodil Row (1937), Watersmeet (1940), Rowan in Search of a Name (1941), and Holiday in Rome (1955).

Novelist and children's author from the 1880s to 1930s; titles include Stronger than Fate (1889), The Torchbearers (1904), Meriel's Career: A Tale of Literary Life in London (1914), A Daughter of the Empire (1919), and a girls' school story called What Hazel Did (1924).

SUSAN WILCOX (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Twins at Highfields (1954).

KATHLEEN M[ARY] WILLCOX (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of three girls' school stories—The Mystery of the Third Form Room (1926), Averil's Ambition (1927), and The Stanford Twins at St. Faith's (1934); it's unclear if she's the same author who wrote travel books for children in the 1960s.

FLORENCE S. WILLMOT (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of one school story, Care of Uncle Charlie (1912) and other religious-themed children's books, some sounding excruciatingly sentimental even for their day, such as The Tender Light of Home (1908) and The Heart of a Friend: A Story for Girls (1911).

LESLEY WOOD (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, The Tangled Twins (1928).

FRANCES C[AMILLIA]. WRIGHT (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a school story listed by Sims and Clare, The Mystery of the Trees (1954); it seems possible she is also the author of The Mystery of the Lovelace Luck (1957), also published in Scotland and credited simply to Frances Wright.

SUSAN WYCHWOOD (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, French Leave (1936), set in a small boarding school in a French provincial town.

DOREEN WYLD (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of two girls' school stories which, according to Sims & Clare, were published in reverse order, with Hilary Takes a Hand (1952) beginning the major plotlines and The Girls of Queen's Mere (1950) concluding them.


  1. Whew! More overwhelming books. I think I like the look of Jill, Lone Guide, the best.

  2. As always, I am in love with the cover art. It is so intriguing to think what these stories might be about from the illustration. Good job, as usual, Scott!

    1. Thanks, Tom. The cover art is half the fun, I think, though I'm loving some of the stories themselves too.

  3. Hi Scott. I was working through your latest terrific list and the ballet story reminded me of Lorna Hill whose ballet books I adored (my theory is that girls either liked ballet or horses but rarely both). I see that you've reviewed her The Other Miss Perkins but couldn't find her among your school story authors. In fact, I can't see a list for the letters G to K. Have you taken it down or did I just stupidly miss it?

    On the subject of when is a British author British or not, and not wishing to offend proud Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians, there was apparently some feeling in those countries until the 1950s or 1960s that the UK was home. You can see it in novels like Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice. Phrases like 'back home' and the 'mother country' were used. Some of the earlier authors you exclude in particular might still have thought of themselves as British or British/Australian etc. Interested to hear what today's Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians reading your blog think.

    1. Oh, Grace, I'm afraid I've thoroughly confused a lot of people with these school updates. My approach has been, when I post an "update," that I only include those authors who have been added in my latest overhaul of the main Overwhelming List. The idea is to give people a way of seeing only the new authors, without having to look over the whole list every time its updated, since that list is, more and more all the time, living up to its name! But I think that this time, because there were so many new authors from this genre, I should have made it a full list of its own, as I did with mystery authors and authors who wrote about war, and included the authors, like Elinor Brent-Dyer, Elsie Oxenham, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Gwendoline Courtney, and Lorna Hill, among quite a few others, who were already on the list. But alas, that didn't occur to me in time. I might still do that when time allows, however. Meanwhile, sorry to have confused you and others. (The G-K section should be visible if you click on January in the archive section of the right-hand column.)

      Thanks too for your comment on British-ness. It's such a challenging question for me, because obviously you're quite right that there is some real element of British culture in authors and works from Australia and NZ and Canada. Plus, there are some authors that I quite love from those places as well--Ngaio Marsh, Katherine Mansfield, Janet Frame, Christina Stead, Margaret Laurence--oh dear! But at the same time, I still find myself shying away from taking the plunge and including the many wonderful authors from those countries on my list: first, because I can only imagine how much work it would entail and I can't even seem to come to the end of all the writers who already fit my list; and second, because, since my primary interest has always been in the UK, I don't feel entirely qualified for that research. So it's as much about practical considerations--my qualifications and my sanity--as it is a judgment on relative British-ness.

      BUT, that said, I've never ABSOLUTELY ruled out the possibility of expanding the scope of my blog at some point in the future... :-)

    2. Yes, Scott, I think your decision to draw the line at the shores of Britain is a wise one.

      I believe your literary blogging devotion is already truly booked up (so to speak).

  4. Thank you for your list and the illustrations.

    Constance Savery's Redhead at School certainly provides a Christian perspective, but the publisher, Lutterworth Press, offered Savery an earlier publishing date and an increased stipend, from £50 to £75, if she would include some "Christian teaching" in the novel. Savery replied that could not increase in a natural manner more Christian teaching than was already present. The book was printed as written in Lutterworth's Crown Series, which Lutterworth considered secular writing.

    1. Oh, that's so interesting, Eric! Thanks for sharing that. I know so little about Savery, so I appreciate the insight. Have you studied Savery in particular, or school stories in general?

    2. It certainly took me a long time to reply. I have a website devoted to Savery [Google "constancesavery"], and I have just completed writing her biography, which I am self-publishing (groan!) this fall.

  5. The Girls of Queens Mere was my favourite book at the age of 11 in 1952. Wonderful to see it again. It was about a foreign princess in an English school. Her name was Kerena. Short for Katrine Elizabeth Renate Eugene Natalie Ann.

  6. As promised in April, I have published a biography of Constance Savery entitled "Another Lady". It is only available as a Kindle eBook, but there is no trouble finding it on Amazon.

  7. Astraea Starforth nee Hall (4/12/1896 - 25/11/1985) eldest of 5 daughters of Irish insurance broker Roger Hall and Maud Seaton, married William Percy Starforth (medical doctor) in 1916


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