Monday, July 18, 2016


Most of you know by now that I always like to point out famous (or infamous) connections to authors that I'm adding to my Overwhelming List. I can't honestly say that this is the most scintillating set of connections I've ever traced, but I still had fun with these. It's also way long and should have been two posts, but alas, I started it as one and then it seemed just too difficult to split into two. Woe is me!

My favorite of these connections is without a doubt MARY DEANE, who published novels and children's tales mostly in the late Victorian and Edwardian years, but her final children's story, The Invisible Chain (1920), qualifies her for my list. But it's not the quality of her work that gets her included in this post—it's the fact that she was the aunt of none other than P. G. Wodehouse. And, more even than that, it's the fact that she was reportedly the inspiration for Bertie Wooster's rather domineering Aunt Agatha. What a way to go down in literary history!

From aunts, we move to nieces. What were the chances that two of my new authors would be nieces of the same major author? Both KATE MARY BRUCE and DIANA MARR-JOHNSON were, as it turns out, née Maugham (and therefore of course cousins themselves). Bruce wrote sixteen novels, which seem for the most part to be cheerful and humorous in theme (and the obviously war-related Figures in Black-Out from 1941 is calling my name), while Marr-Johnson's six novels, spread across 40 years (she's obviously the less productive cousin!), are intriguing as well. 

A blurb for her debut Rhapsody in Gold (1935), reads: "Author's first novel and story of a woman who accepts an invitation to a party thrown by the richest man in the world to see if all the rumors about his madcap antics are true." Her third, Goodnight Pelican (1957), meanwhile, was described as the "[s]tory of a young English girl circulating in French society while supposedly pursuing an education in France." Both sound like they could be very good or very, well, not. More for the TBR list…

One of many covers and illustrations
by Grace Lodge

Two of the other new additions to my list also have very different kinds of connections to a major author. GRACE LODGE wrote several children's books of her own, but seems to be more widely known as an illustrator, including having illustrated several of Enid Blyton's books. 

Another Grace Lodge cover

Meanwhile, IDA POLLOCK, who published more than 120 MIlls & Boon romances under numerous pseudonyms over an incredible 70 year period (1935-2005!), had a more personal connection to Blyton. Pollock was famously the "other woman" in Blyton's divorce proceedings. Her daughter, Rosemary Pollock, is also a romance writer, though she started writing far too late to be included on my list.

Certainly none of the women in this post have a more prestigious literary connection than FLORENCE E. HARDY, who was the second wife of Thomas. As far as her writing, she is best known today for her 2-volume bio of her husband, which appeared in 1928 and 1930 (reprinted in one volume in 1962). But she did publish several children's titles of her own, which qualify her for listing here. Her Wikipedia page notes that she always lived in the shadow of Hardy's first wife Emma, to whom he continued to write love poetry long after he had remarried!

A second Hardy just added to my list, IZA DUFFUS HARDY, doesn't appear to be any relation to Thomas or Florence, but she was, for what it's worth, the daughter of Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, an archivist and antiquary. The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction describes her novels as "unpretentious, well-crafted, rather predictable," which doesn't make them sound irresistible, but who knows?

I've still never got round to reading anything by Norah C. James, who was quite successful (and a bit controversial) in her day, but in this update I added BARBARA BEAUCHAMP, who, it turns out, was James's partner for many years as well as authoring seven novels of her own. She and James published a cookbook together, Greenfingers and the Gourmet (1949). A blurb for her 1947 novel Ride the Wind describes it as "[a]n intimate study of family life, told with exceptional sensitiveness and sympathy," which makes me tempted to add it to my TBR list, if I thought I could ever possibly get round to it.

Admittedly, not all of the connections I found are terribly scintillating. How much do we care, for example, that MARIE EVELYN BYNG, who published two novels in the 1910s, was the wife of the 12th Governor General of Canada (though sports fans might be interested to know that she donated the Lady Byng Trophy to the National Hockey League in 1925). And Mills & Boon fans might be interested to learn that ANN DEERING, author of about 20 romances, and SUSAN TAYLOR, who wrote ten, were sisters (both née Collier), but I'm not overly excited about it.

One of Kate Whitehead's two novels

KATE WHITEHEAD, author of two novels and several books for children about cats, was married to Selwyn Oxley, a pioneer educator of the deaf. MARY FRASER, who wrote or co-wrote at least 18 novels 1895-1915, was the wife of Hugh Fraser, a diplomat and author in his own right. 

And I already mentioned DORIS HOWE in my post on mystery authors, but her sister MURIEL HOWE was also added to my list. The two wrote several novels together under the pseudonym Newlyn Nash.

Marie Effie Bancroft

I find it a bit more interesting to learn that MARIE EFFIE BANCROFT, an actress and theatre manager who published several memoirs with her husband Squire Bancroft, as well as a single novel, was particularly applauded for playing several boys' roles on stage, and no less a figure than Charles Dickens wrote of seeing her perform. And MARY BLIGH BOND may be less interesting in herself than her father, Frederick Bligh Bond, an architect and ghost hunter, but she belongs on my list due to a single novel, Avernus (1924), described as a fantasy novel and as dealing with reincarnation. John Herrington found the additional tidbits that she was also a puppeteer and that her parents' divorce in 1899 led to a custody dispute that nearly bankrupted her father.

Speaking of fathers, SARAH CAMPION's was Cambridge historian G. G. Coulton. Campion wrote more than a dozen novels, and, amazingly enough, one of them, Mo Burdekin (1941), set in New Zealand, was reprinted as recently as the 1990s! She also published Thirty Million Gas Masks (1937), "a Near Future tale predictive of the coming catastrophe," and National Baby: The Author's Experiences of Childbirth Under the National Health Service (1950), which sounds like it could be an interesting read. She was also a political activist and the wife of Antony Alpers, who wrote a biography of Katherine Mansfield. 

And KAY SEATON, mentioned already in my mystery update post, was the daughter of thriller writer R. R. Ryan (see here for more information).

There's clearly some sort of writing gene in MARGARET JEPSON's family. She herself wrote seven novels using the pseudonym Pearl Bellairs (taken from a character in Aldous Huxley’s Chrome Yellow), but she also the daughter of author Edgar Alfred Jepson and sister of crime novelist Selwyn Jepson. But her most famous genetic connection is undoubtedly her daughter—Fay Weldon, the prolific and successful author of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, among many others.

AUDREY LUCAS also had a famous father. According to his Wikipedia page, E. V. Lucas was "an English humorist, essayist, playwright, biographer, publisher, poet, novelist, short story writer and editor." Well, he certainly couldn't have been bored! But Audrey, who published four novels in the 1930s, has another famous connection. She was perhaps an inspiration for Evelyn Waugh—you can read more here. I have to admit I had a bit of trouble following it all, but it may be of interest to Waugh fans. 

And then there's RUTHERFORD CROCKETT (real full name Ruth Mary Rutherford Crockett), who was, quite confusingly, the daughter of Scottish novelist Samuel Rutherford Crockett. The fact that her pen name echoes her father's name makes her quite a challenge to research—presumably her father was successful enough at the time that she or her publishers thought the confusion of names would benefit them. She wrote two novels—A Gay Lover (1925), a humorous romance set partly in Scotland, and its sequel, Safety Last (1926).

Viola Tree

And, finishing up with fathers, VIOLA TREE was the daughter of stage actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree, though two of her other connections are more well-known in literary circles—she's the niece of novelist Max Beerbohm, whose 1911 novel Zuleika Dobson is considered a classic, and the half-sister of film director Carol Reed, best known for the wonderful postwar noir movie The Third Man

Meanwhile, CLARE EMSLEY, who wrote more than 20 novels herself, was the daughter of crime novelist T. Arthur Plummer, but her mother, romance writer CORA LINDA (real name Coralie Marie Plummer), was also part of my most recent update. Bear Alley did an entire post about them here. And while I'm at it, I also owe Bear Alley a thanks for his post on JOAN BARRETT, already mentioned in my Mistaken Identity posts. Her husband was author Frank Barrett, and you can see the whole complex tale of their lives and name changes here.

There are three other authors with show-biz connections as well. JOY PARKER, who wrote three children's titles, was the wife of Shakespearean actor Paul Scofield, and was herself a stage actress and producer, appearing in numerous Shakespeare productions, including some directed by the likes of Peter Brook and John Gielgud. KATHLEEN CRIGHTON LION's husband was Leon Marks Lion, an early stage and film actor. I don't recognize any of his films, though my film knowledge is not as it could be, a fact of which Tom reminded me when I mentioned HOWARD MASON in my mystery updates and admitted to not knowing anything of her mother, actress Cathleen Nesbitt. Apparently, I should have remembered that she was featured prominently in My Fair Lady… Who knew? (Well, Tom, apparently.)

Fans of well-known children's author Eleanor Farjeon may be interested that her niece, ANNABEL FARJEON, also published a bit of fiction, as well as a biography of her aunt, Morning Has Broken (1986). She wrote two children's books in the 1970s, but she's included here because of her one adult novel, The Alphabet (1943), which the Spectator described as being about "the childhood and adolescence of a remarkably self-engrossed young woman." Ouch.

BARBARA LUCAS was a scholar and author of nine novels spanning 45 years. One of the only bits of information I could find about her work was a blurb for The Trembling of the Sea (1936), which sums it up as a "[n]ovel of two youths that are in love and members of the British Communist Party." 

Lucas is some relation to Alice Meynell (her daughter is described as the great-granddaughter of Meynell, so that might make Lucas her granddaughter, but not necessarily, I believe?). Said daughter, though, was author Bernardine Bishop, who, among other things, testified at the 1960 obscenity trial about D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

JOY GRIFFIN, mentioned already in my mystery posts, was likely either the daughter or sister-in-law of novelist Aceituna Griffin, and co-authored her one book, Motive for Murder (1935), with her. M. P. THOMASSET was the mother of novelist and travel writer Katharine Sim, also on my list, as well as the author of four novels—I'm most intrigued by The Fairy Spectacles (1920). And DAISY ECKERSLEY was the wife of designer and artist Tom Eckersley and the mother of three more illustrators and/or designers, Richard, Paul, and Anthony Eckersley. She published a single children's book illustrated by her husband, Cat o' Nine Lives (1946); many of the illustrations are posted here.

Fans of novelist David Garnett may already know that his first wife, RAY GARNETT, was the illustrator for his most famous novel, Lady Into Fox, but she also published one children's book of her own, A Ride on a Rocking-Horse (1917), which was lavishly praised by Saturday Review when it was reprinted in 1926. Garnett's second wife was Virginia Woolf's niece, Angelica Bell. Meanwhile, FRANCES BROWNE ARTHUR's uncle was poet Frances Browne, apparently known as "The Blind Poet of Ulster." Arthur published Scottish-themed novels and children's fiction from the late 1890s-1930s, under her own name and her pseudonym, Ray Cunningham.

And finally, DIANA PETRE turns out to have been the half-sister of novelist J. R. Ackerley, as well as the author of two novels, Portrait of Mellie (1952) and The Cruel Month (1955). She later published a biography of her mother, Muriel Perry (mistress of Ackerley's father), called The Secret Orchard of Roger Ackerley (1975), a book which has something in common with Ackerley's My Father and Myself (1968)—both about children searching for the truth about mysterious parents, and in this case the mysterious parents happen to have been in a relationship with each other. 

Also, in confirming the date of Ackerley's book just now, I learned that his book and Petre's were both the source of a 1979 TV movie called Secret Orchards, about their father's two families. I also learned, from a recent issue of Shiny New Books, that Petre's bio is one of the most recent reprints from Slightly Foxed, so she now has one book actually in print!

And that's quite enough (or considerably more) for now.


  1. "Cathleen Nesbitt. Apparently, I should have remembered that she was featured prominently in My Fair Lady"

    Sha was also engaged to Eupert Brooke, the poet who died in WWI, whose sonnet The Soldier provided titles for a great many middlebrow novels.

    1. I think you intended "Rupert Brooke", and you must be Tom.


    2. I don't think I knew of the Brooke connection either, I'm sorry to say!

  2. "How much do we care," he asks "that MARIE EVELYN BYNG, who published two novels in the 1910s, was the wife of the 12th Governor General of Canada (though sports fans might be interested to know that she donated the Lady Byng Trophy to the National Hockey League in 1925)."

    Hee hee. Since you ask, quite a bit. For slightly convoluted reasons, I have recently taken a great interest in her. I now own a rare copy of her memoirs, Up the Stream of Time, and was rather taken with a brief incident ca 1925 where her maid Vaughan disappeared in the woods while on a camping trip in the Rockies. She was rescued eventually by a stranger across the lake, but it has inspired me to write a short mystery story about what might have happened had Vaughan NOT had a happy ending to her misadventure.

    There is almost NOTHING on the internet about Lady Byng, except hundreds of hockey hits (the trophy is still awarded to the "most gentlemanly player" of the season). Still, I'm inclined to imagine her an amateur detective, determined to discover who did this evil thing to poor Vaughan.

    1. Susan, I can't wait to read your story!

      And, Scott, I forgot to add in my previous post, thank you again for an interesting post, and some more fun dust jackets. Duck's Back may top my list of jacket art from this post, but there are plenty of other good ones (or so bad that they are good in a few cases) to enjoy.


    2. Well, there you go, Susan! This proves that each bit of seemingly trivial information may be useful to someone somewhere, or at least I choose to believe that it's proved. Your story sounds interesting, and surely Lady Byng would have quite competently turned detective had the necessity arose!

      Jerri, I don't think most of these covers are among my favorites, but I have to admit that the first, for Ride the Wind, did make me very intrigued about the novel!

    3. I have a weakness for cover art (and internal illustration or end papers) in line drawings of the characters showing specific things from the book, like Duck's Back here, the Heneritta Goes to War books, the Emily Kimbrough travel books, and so on. Then the three times Cosgrave gave little illustrations of events from the book in full color for the Miss Buncle books and Miss Dean's Dilemma, copies of which I cherish. But Ride the Wind would be next on my list from these examples.


  3. Now, see, my favorite cover would be from "The Flame of Youth!"

    1. That one is certainly evocative too, Tom. Just what exactly is going on there, one wonders...

  4. I loved this post and didn't feel it was too long at all. I was surprised by the number of children's books/authors you mentioned as this is my main area of interest. I've not heard of any of them, but will have to check them out.

    1. Thank you, Lucy, and I'm glad you came across some new names!


NOTE: The comment function on Blogger is notoriously cranky. If you're having problems, try selecting "Name/URL" or "Anonymous" from the "Comment as" drop-down (be sure to "sign" your comment, though, so I know who dropped by). Some people also find it easier using a browser like Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.

But it can still be a pain, and if you can't get any of that to work, please email me at I do want to hear from you!