Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mistaken identity part 1: the two Dorothy Alice Hunts

Lately, as I've worked on the many new authors added to my Overwhelming List in my most recent update, I've come across several confusing likenesses of author names, some of them including online misattributions of some or all of one author's works to another. I'm going to mention a few more of these in my next post, but this one was confusing enough (and interesting enough, I hope) to warrant it's own post.

In this case, I began from the assumption that two similarly named authors might actually turn out to be the same person. I came across, on the mammoth New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors (from which, I should note, many of the new additions in my update came), two separate author listings, which appeared like this:

Dorothy Alice HUNT {UK} (F: 1896 - ?)
(ps: Doric COLLYER)
          Ann Of The House Of Barlow [f|1926]

Dorothy Alice BONAVIA-HUNT, originally HUNT {UK} (F: 1880 Apr 29 - 1970 Nov 21)
          Reflection [f|1937]
          Unfettered [f|1937]
          Vagabonds All [f|1938]
          Watching Eyes [f|1940]
          Meet Madame Mazova [f|1942]
          The Amazing Paradox [f|1948]
          Pemberley Shades [f|1949]
          Ashes Of Achievement [f|1959]

I wondered, if Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt had begun life as Dorothy Alice Hunt, could she perhaps have already published one novel under her original name? Was I in fact looking at a single author (with a little confusion about life dates somewhere)? A little further digging revealed that the UPenn Online Books Page had already equated the two, since their listing said:

Bonavia-Hunt, D. A. (Dorothy Alice) [aka Doric Collyer] (April 29, 1880 - November 21, 1970)

Since one of the books shown above, Pemberley Shades, is actually is print these days from Sourcebooks, I also consulted their website. But they obviously hadn't been successful in firmly identifying the author either, though they, disagreeing with NGCOBA, believed that she had only written one book:

Little is known about Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt. She lived with her brother, who was a vicar, in the English countryside during the time that she wrote Pemberley Shades, which appears to be her only book.

Neither the British Library nor the Library of Congress were a huge help either. They both credited most of the books in question to Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt. The LOC even listed the "Doric Collyer" title as a Bonavia-Hunt novel. So I obviously wasn't the first person to be confused by these names!

I sent an email to the irreplaceable John Herrington, explaining what I thought would be a fairly simple case. Little did I know.

In fact, as it turned out, every one of the sources above, and certainly my own assumptions about what we were looking at, were wrong in one way or another. I had been trying to assume that Bonavia-Hunt, whose life and death dates were more precisely documented, must have been the author of all the books, and the Hunt birth year of 1896 must just be an error. But John promptly cleared that up by making a positive identification of the Dorothy Alice Hunt I thought might not exist—born 1896 in Reading, Berkshire, married to Howard Eric Fellows in 1953, and died in Sussex on April 17, 1982. With the added tidbit that her mother's maiden name was Collyer, which meant the Doric Collyer pseudonym was almost certainly hers. So she pretty clearly did exist.

John also found a listing for her in The Author's and Writer's Who's Who from 1948, in which all of the titles shown above were credited to, with the exception of Pemberley Shades and Ashes of Achievement, which weren't published until after that reference guide. (John found a later A&W from the 1960s that added Ashes of Achievement to Hunt's credits—which was apparently the final book she published.)

So, it appeared that, contrary to my original assumption (and to what was reflected in the BL and LOC, though not contrary to what Sourcebooks website said), Dorothy Alice Hunt had written a whole slew of novels, while Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt had written only one (ironically, the only one of the bunch that's in print these days).

However, as I did a little more digging through book sites, searching for photos of dustjackets (as I am prone to do), I discovered that, alas, Sourcebooks was wrong too. Following what was apparently a reasonably successful literary debut (at age 69, no less), Bonavia-Hunt, it turned out, did publish one more novel, entitled The Relentless Tide (1951). I know this because a dustjacket cover for the book clearly attributes it to D. A. Bonavia-Hunt and says it's a "new novel by the author of Pemberley Shades." The tricky part there, I think, was that Relentless was apparently published only in the United States, so some sources may have missed it because it didn't show up in the British Library catalogue.

Thus, we end up with almost the exact reverse of what we had at the beginning, with Hunt proving to be far more prolific than Bonavia-Hunt:

D[OROTHY]. A[LICE]. BONAVIA-HUNT (April 29, 1880-November 21, 1970)
(name changed from Hunt)
Pemberley Shades (1949)
The Relentless Tide (1951)

DOROTHY A[LICE]. HUNT (1896-April 17, 1982)
(married name Fellows, aka Doric Collyer)
Ann of the House of Barlow (1926) (as Doric Collyer)
Unfettered (1937)
Reflection (1937)
Vagabonds All (1938)
Watching Eyes (1940)
Meet Madame Mazova (1942)
The Amazing Paradox (1948)
Ashes of Achievement (1959)

All of which was great fun to unpack, and all of which shows the dangers of assuming the "obvious". What were the chances that a previously prolific Dorothy Alice Hunt would publish a novel in 1948 before falling silent for over a decade, and that a Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt (formerly Hunt) would appear with a first novel in 1949? But whatever the chances, that is indeed what happened. And happily, thanks to John contacting them with the details, the British Library catalogue now shows these titles correctly attributed.

A big thanks to John, as always, for doing 99% of the work on clearing up this confusion. But hey, at least I sent the original email that led to the clearing up!


  1. If you hadn't asked the question Scott, it would still be a mystery! Well done you & John for all his sleuthing.

    1. Thanks, Lyn! It's always fun being able to clarify these little mysteries, and maybe more so because this one involved an author who actually has a book in print (for once).

  2. Another strength of dust jackets! They are interesting and often lovely to look at, but they can provide information about the author, other books out at the time, and more! Good detective work!


    1. Definitely, Jerri. I've learned quite a lot from dustjackets that I never could have found online or in most reference works.

  3. As a librarian, I must say, your powers of detection, and those around you, continue to impress me greatly. Tom

    1. Thanks, Tom! I'm a younger, geekier Miss Marple, perhaps!


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