Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mistaken identity part 2

I recently wrote about one of the most interesting cases of mistaken identity in my recent list update—that of the two Dorothy Alice Hunts. But there were actually a few other smaller confusions that also proved interesting to explore—and again I relied mostly on the superior skills of other researchers, so I'm not taking credit for unravelling any of the more complex mysteries.

The first Hazel Adair (Hazel Iris Addis)

Such as, for example, the confusion—similar to that of the two Dorothy Alice Hunts—surrounding two Hazel Adairs. Oddly enough, both were pseudonyms, and their use of the Adair name very nearly overlap in the 1950s. Bear Alley already did all of the work unpacking this confusion here. The first HAZEL ADAIR (real name Hazel Iris Addis) wrote more than 20 novels over the course of nearly as many years, and her husband, Eric Addis, was also an author, publishing thrillers under the name Peter Drax. 

And the second one (Hazel Joyce Marriott)

The second HAZEL ADAIR was primarily a television screenwriter, as well as an actress and producer, but she published novelizations of two of her television programs, Stranger from Space (1953) and Life in Emergency Ward 10 (1959), which just barely qualify her for my list. She later wrote one an additional novel, as Clare Nicol, called Blitz on Balaclava Street (1983), about an ambulance driver in WWII.

It was also Bear Alley who clarified the rather labyrinthine confusions surrounding JOAN BARRETT and her husband, author Frank Barrett (really Frank Davis). I don't think I could begin to sum them all up, so I will merely refer you to his post here.

Then there's the mysterious (literally and figuratively) MARY ARDEN, who published two wartime novels that seem to be mysteries or thrillers—The House of Mystery (1940) and The Woman in Black (1944). Some sources have incorrectly identified her as Violet Murry (née le Maistre), the second wife of Katherine Mansfield's widower, John Middleton Murry. Murry used the Arden name for her one book of stories, Luck and Other Stories (1927), which received enthusiastic praise from Naomi Royde-Smith: "Miss Mary Arden does, and does brilliantly, the same thing for suburban London as Miss Suckow and Miss Ferber do for extra-metropolitan America." (Note to self: Must get round to reading this collection.)

The tragic Violet Murry, who published one
story collection as Mary Arden

But there is a quite compelling reason I'm sure that Mary Arden the mystery or thriller author is not Mary Arden the short story author, which is that Violet Murry, like Mansfield, died tragically young of tuberculosis—in 1931. It's actually a slightly unsettling story, not only because John Middleton Murry lost two wives to tuberculosis within the span of a decade, but because a photograph of Violet reveals that she resembled Mansfield in more than just her tragic illness (and literary talent, though it's surely too much to ask that her work could stand up next to Mansfield's). 

And the first Mrs. Murry, the brilliant Katherine Mansfield

It must have been a rather unusual marriage, too, as much of Murry's time during these years was spent editing Mansfield's unpublished stories, journals, and letters. I can't help but feel a pang of sympathy for Violet in this rather Rebecca-ish marriage, which—however happy—must have sometimes felt a bit like a ménage à trois. Let's hope there was no Mrs. Danvers present to make it worse…

At any rate, I'm reasonably certain that Violet did not return a decade after her death with two final novels, and John Herrington's searches were also to no avail, so the second Mary Arden must remain for now a shadowy figure.

BARBARA HALL the novelist is not nearly so mysterious, though she shares her name with a well-known crossword puzzle creator. Perhaps more mysterious is why Hall the novelist (full name Constant Barbara Hall) published two novels in 1934 and 1935, and then fell silent until two more novels appeared in 1951 and 1954. Are there missing pseudonyms here, or did she really fall silent for 16 years in between? (I suppose it's unlikely she could have written a couple of wartime thrillers as Mary Arden???)

There's also not much mystery about LALAGE PULVERTAFT, who was added to my list because I stumbled across one of her novels at a bookstore around Christmas, and perhaps she doesn't even belong in this post. But she did cause me a bit of confusion, because that book I found, A Question of Love (1966, originally Either/Or), was published under the name Hilary March, which turned out to also have been an early pseudonym of another author on my list, Almey St. John Adcock, whose books sound like bleak rural drama.

A Question of Love turned out to be not quite my cup of tea, but she also published three earlier novels using her real name (believe it or not—full name Isobel Lalage Pulvertaft). No Great Magic (1956) appears to deal with archaeology and was dramatized by the BBC in 1960 as Dead Man's Embers

The Thing Desired (1957) is set among London artists and intellectuals, and was mentioned in relation to Iris Murdoch in an early review. And Golden October (1965), it turns out, belongs on my Grown-Up School Story List, with a public school setting and a plot about a headmaster's wife returning to her husband and children after a love affair. John unearthed the fact that Pulvertaft appears to still be alive and (hopefully) well and living in Cambridge.

The American Helen Anderson, rather than
the Scottish one

Interestingly, two of the authors added to my list have been entangled in some sources with American namesakes, but with John Herrington's help I can untangle both of them. HELEN M. ANDERSON was a Scottish author who published four novels in the 1920s and 1930s, about which I know little. Her final work, Sons of the Forge, appeared in 1932, but a few years after that a scandalous novel appeared called Pity for Women (1937), with fairly straightforward lesbian themes. In fact, it's difficult to determine whether the novel was in fact scandalous, per se, or if the Saturday Review writer whose review I found was merely himself scandalized by the themes. Regardless of its literary quality, the novel is probably worth remembering as an early appearance of lesbian themes, but it's not an appearance of the theme in British literature but rather in American lit, because as it turns out that Helen Anderson is an entirely different person hailing from across the pond.

It's also easy to see how, based on sparse information, MARGARET MALCOLM, the British author of more than 90 Mills & Boon romances 1940-1981, could have got mixed up with the author who used that name for a single mystery in 1973. That novel, Headless Beings, was actually set in Scotland, a plausible enough setting for a British author, though its protagonist is described as "Hortense, an elderly American geneaologist in Scotland for a summer tracing a forebear." The mystery was published by Doubleday, and it actually sounds rather intriguing, but the Hartford Courant obituary of one Edith Lyman Kuether (see here) makes clear that it's the only book she published, so she is certainly not the romance writer. John found a listing of Mills & Boon writers, without many details but including any pseudonyms used, and it appears that Margaret Malcolm is indeed a real name, though she has not yet been fully traced.

And finally, I don't know if this quite fits the category of mistaken identity, but it is certainly a mystery that deserves highlighting. Who on earth, you might well ask, would choose as a pseudonym for one's literary output a name like F. DICKBERRY? In fact, we're not absolutely certain and she may not belong on my list at all. Several sources online note that it's the pseudonym of Fernande Blaze de Bury, who appears to have been born in France circa 1856 (which means she wouldn't fit my list) but was also described as a British subject. By marriage? But she is also shown in 1891 as single (and a professor of singing). A death date of 1931 is given in some sources, but John has not been able to confirm it. She may have been a member of the literary Blaze de Bury family which included authors Henri, Rose, and Yetta (possibly among others). One online source gives Rose as the author of at least one of F. Dickberry's titles, but as Rose died in 1894, well before any of the Dickberry books appeared, this is implausible. In short, a mass of confusion that likely can't be sorted out except by a fluent French researcher.

And then there's the question of how the books came to be attributed to any of the Blaze de Burys at all. John said he found no source for the attribution, merely online sources confidently asserting it. Which leaves just enough uncertainty for me to keep this vague author on my list. (I admit it would be hard for me to delete such an entertaining pseudonym from my list anyway.)

That's all of the major identity confusions from this list update (at least those that I know of), but I have no doubt there will be more in the future!


  1. Oh great excitement - I actually lived in the same village as Mrs Hazel Iris Addis when she was very old. She lived in Bacton near Stowmarket Suffolk and was very involved in The Scout movement.When my mum was a Cub Scout leader in the late 1940s in Stowmarket Suffolk, Mrs Addis was the District Cub Scout leader and when I was a Cub Scout leader in Bacton between 1976 and 1992 Mrs Addis was writing stories for boys in Scouting magazine as well as Books for boys about Scouting. Mrs Addis lived in a beautiful old house and each summer allowed the Bacton Scout Group to use her garden for a fund raising Fete. - Happy days.
    I'm not sure you wanted to know this but it's more information about her to add to what you know.

    1. That's great, Sue, I'm always interested in hearing about people who have known authors or have some connection to them! It makes them real people instead of just names on my list. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. DRAT! Now I really want to read "Golden October" (you see how you are, Scott, luring innocent readers down ever more slippery slopes!) and have already larned that Los Angeles PL doesn't own it! I blame YOU!

    1. Sorry, Tom! I'm not too surprised the library doesn't have it. If it helps, the book of hers that I sampled was rather dreary...

  3. Himmel! What a tango of twisting personae. I found myself focussing on the highly distracting author names, real or otherwise. F. Dickberry? Yetta Blaze de Bury? And (really?)Lalage Pulvertaft? No matter how much one might say, "Oh, but it's my real name," there's no excuse. I mean, does she really expect legions of readers at cocktail parties to say, "Have you read Lalage Pulvertuft's latest?"

    And those covers... Um, the giant nun looking out from between the arches? Poor Lalage, she finds herself a nice pseudonym and ends up with a very weird cover artist.

    Thanks as always, Scott, for all this amazing literary stuff.

    1. For some reason I missed the giant nun! I was busy enjoying the towers and general layout of the buildings in that cover, and never noticed the face, and had to scan through the post three times to figure out which cover you were talking about. Aside from that strange face in the middle arch, I rather like the cover art on A Question of Love.

      Tracking these things down seems to be very difficult. Many thanks to Scott and friends.


    2. When I first came across Pulvertaft/March, I assumed that Hilary March must be her real name. It certainly sounds more plausible, but alas (possibly alas for her as well) that wasn't the case. "The exciting new novel from Lalage Pulvertaft!" Must have been challenging for her publishers as well...


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