Monday, March 5, 2018

More new authors (1 of 2)

I have two more posts featuring new additions to my British list, and then I'll be able to report on the beginning of the American list, which has been bubbling along nicely under the surface. (I can definitely report that there are just as many "lost" American women writers as there are on the other side of the pond…)

In addition to all the newly added children's authors I've reported on recently, there were 32 other new writers, some naturally of more interest than others, but I'll at least mention all of them in passing. Sadly, not so many great covers to share for these posts, though there are two—by different authors—which are strikingly similar...

New authors first appear on my radar in a variety of ways. One of these new authors happened to come from my recent reading of Reggie Oliver's biography of Stella Gibbons, Out of the Woodshed. It's a mediocre biography (the glorious Gibbons deserves better), but it did bring to my attention a friend of Stella's who was also a novelist.

I couldn't find a lot of info about GWEN CLEAR, a poet and author of two novels. About the extent of it is that the Bookman called her first novel, The Years That Crown (1930), "a slender bit of work which betrays a sensitive mind, hovering delicately over the lives of a group of people, but never quite encompassing them." Not a lot to go on, but I'm a bit intrigued. If she was a friend of Stella's…  Information about her second novel, The Undisciplined Heart (1938), is even more sparse.

It was a book catalogue that brought KATHLEEN BARRATT my way, but it was a while back and I've forgotten which catalogue it was. Her debut novel, To Fight Another Day (1947), particularly caught my eye, as it's a grownup school story, and, according to a blurb quoted on Abe Books, "deals with the clash of temperament between the senior mistress and the newly-appointed Headmistress, both of whom had been pupils at the school. … Against the background of life in a busy school and with the help—and hinderance—of members of the staff, the old antagonism between the two women frequently reasserts itself until the final climax is reached."

I have to admit, though, that a blurb from her second novel, The Fault Undone (1949), about an unmarried mother, calls it the "[s]low, frigid, unromantic romance of a pedagogue and a girl who once made a mistake," which doesn't sound nearly so intriguing. Her other two novels, about which details are lacking, were The Bright Lantern (1954) and Future in the Past (1956).

I came across AUDREY JENNINGS in an online Spectator resulting from a Google search for a completely different author. She wrote only one novel, Storied Urn (1933), of which the Spectator said: "Miss Jennings tells the story, common enough in eighteenth-century comedy, of the rival lovers and the unsophisticated heroine: but she treats it with a depth and sympathy of her own." She was apparently a secretary at the Society of Genealogists. There was also an artist of the same name active in the 1950s and 1960s, but I don't have enough information to link them with certainty.

And while I'm stumbling, I'll report that CICELY FARMER came up in a Hathi Trust search result, which means I can report that her last novel, Artemis Weds (1932), is available there for downloading, at least in the U.S. It turns out that Farmer was the wife of "sea scouting" pioneer Warington Baden-Powell (therefore sister-in-law of Robert Baden-Powell). Her other novels are The Painted Show (1924), Waters of Fayle (1925), and Anna (1931), for sure, though I'm not certain if a fifth title, The Bending Sickle (1931), first published in the U.S., is just an American edition of one of her other works or a separate novel. She also published two books about her travels—Dragons and a Bell (1931), about a trip through China, Malaysia, Burma, and Sri Lanka, and Sunrise Over India (1934).

Then of course there's my favorite source of new authors for my list—readers sharing their finds with me.

Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book gave me a heads up about DOROTHY BAKER, a Brit who is not to be confused with her (slightly) better-known American namesake. The American Baker was best known for Young Man with a Horn (1938) and Cassandra at the Wedding (1962). This Dorothy Baker seems to have worked with the BBC and published only two novels, Coast Town Tapestry (1946), subtitled "a novel with a wartime background," and The Street (1951). Simon unearthed a copy of the latter and reviewed it here. According to the British Library catalogue, she appears to have published only one additional book, A Short Guide to English Architecture (1974).

review from The Mercury, 21 Oct 1932

review from Perth Daily News, 21 Oct 1933

Grant Hurlock has long been a friend of this blog, and has provided several other authors for my lists. Ages ago, he sent me info on VIOLA CASTANG, and I'm just getting round to adding her now. She published a dozen novels, now mostly very scarce. Reviews of the first two, At Last a God (1932) and Country Party (1933), suggest romantic comedies—the first dealing with a young girl with her head full of romance novels, and her bumpy path to the real thing. Other titles include Pirated Poet (1935), I Am Your Adventure (1945), Mrs Clements (1947), Lost Within the Hill (1948), This Can't Be Love (1950), Mate in Two Moves (1951), Bitter Honey (1952), Troubled Summer (1952), and The Invisible Cord (1958). After a considerable absence, she returned in 1972 with one final novel, a mystery evocatively titled A Smell of Garbage (1972).

From David Redd came a recommendation to add an all-around intriguing figure, RÈNE RAY, who wrote seven novels, was a successful screenwriter, and had begun her career as a stage and film actress. Among other things, she auditioned for Joan Fontaine's role in Rebecca. Her first novel, Wraxton Marne (1946), was subtitled "The Tale of a Ghostly Ruin and the Family to Whom it Once Belonged". Her second novel, Emma Conquest (1950), was described as dealing with "a girl's fight against a disastrous inheritance," whatever that might mean, and according to one source was a bestseller. She wrote the screenplay for the science-fiction TV series The Strange World of Planet X, which aired in 1956, and the following year she published a slightly different novel version by the same title. Her other titles are A Man Named Seraphin (1952), The Garden of Cahmohn (1955), The Tree Surgeon (1958), and, after an extended absence from writing, a final fantasy novel called Angel Assignment (1988). With her second marriage in 1975 to the 2nd Earl of Midleton, Ray/Creese became the Countess of Midleton. A note regarding her name: Her IMDB entry shows her first name as René, but her book covers and the British Library catalogue both show it as Rène, which—unusual as it is—I believe to be correct.

There are a few authors in this batch I can single out for their interesting personal stories. MRS VERE CAMPBELL was actually the mother of Marjorie Bowen, who has been on my list since very early on. She wrote eight melodramatic novels, with which she supported herself and her two daughters after separating from her husband. Marjorie Bowen once noted that her mother's work "dealt entirely with her own experiences of passion and poverty. She wrote again and again of misunderstood and wronged women and the various attractive, but faithless, men who had crossed their path." The last of her novels, For No Man Knoweth (1910), just barely qualifies her for this list (which is my excuse for not having added her before.

I have to say that when I came across the name HARRIET M. CAPES, I didn't expect it to be a match with two different authors. But, indeed there are two Harriet Mary Capes, both of them authors, and there has been a fair amount of confusion between them. I think I have now sorted out the confusion, but if anyone else has information about these women, please do let me know.

I believe that only one of the two authors fits my list. That Harriet Mary Capes, who often signed her fiction Sister Mary Reginald (later Mother Mary Reginald), was a nun at St. Dominic's Convent in Staffordshire, as well as a missionary, biographer of religious figures, and author of several volumes of fiction. Her first fiction was apparently Footsteps in the Ward and Other Stories (1910). Later titles which appear to be fiction (but for which little information is available) are The Vision of Master Reginald, Friar Preacher (1911), "Pardon and Peace": The Last Chronicle of an Old Family (1920), Within the Enclosure (1923), written under the pseudonym Harriet Delgairn, and Gold or God? (1932).

That's the extent of the literary output of "my" Harriet Mary Capes. The other author is Magdalen Harriet Mary Capes, usually written "M. Harriet M. Capes," who was the sister of novelist Bernard Capes and a friend of Joseph Conrad. Magdalen was the author of nine earlier children's titles, published 1885-1899 (therefore too early for me), as well as one novel under the pseudonym Magdalen Brooke. A 1908 publication called Busy Bee's Day: A Fairy Play for Children is presumably by Magdalen as well, given that Sister/Mother Mary doesn't seem to have written for children at all.

I'm fairly confident that we have now got these two women's lives and works straightened out, but a quick glance at Abe Books will show ongoing confusion about them.

I already reported a while back on the confusions that initially surrounded PRINCESS PAUL TROUBETZKOY (and there turned out to be a second related author there too, as Amélie Louise Rives, who sometimes went by Princess Troubetzkoy, will appear on my American list).

And, okay, it might be stretching the meaning of the word "interesting" to call MRS ARTHUR HENNIKER's story by that name, but her name does turn up here and there in scholarly works to this day because of her one main claim to fame: She was the only author with whom Thomas Hardy ever collaborated on a work of fiction—a story called "The Spectre of the Real," which appeared in Henniker's collection In Scarlet and Grey: Stories of Soldiers and Others (1896). She also published eight other volumes of fiction, the last of which, Second Fiddle (1912), qualifies her for this list. That novel deals with an unhappily married woman, and OCEF called it "genuinely poignant." Regarding Hardy, some sources suggest that he actively pursued a romantic relationship with Henniker but she insisted they remain friends. His letters to her were published as One Rare Fair Woman (1972).

And then there are a few authors who are included only as housekeeping (or, in the case of the first, as an excuse to share cover art).

EVA MCDONALD published nearly 40 volumes of historical romance. Titles include Lazare the Leopard (1959), The Rebel Bride (1960), The Prettiest Jacobite (1961), Lord Byron's First Love (1968), Regency Rake (1973), and House of Secrets (1980).

MARGOT ARNOLD's six novels are so obscure I can find no details about any of them. Titles are The Wall (1935), Evolution of Elizabeth (1936), Fun for Felicity (1937), "—I Had No Shoes" (1938), Birds of Sadness (1940), and A Different Drummer (1941). A later title, Portrait of Caroline (1958), may also be by Arnold. She is not, however, to be confused with American author Petronelle Cook, who wrote a mystery series and other novels under the name Margot Arnold.

JOHN ABBYFORDE was the pseudonym of an Edith May Hollinshead, née Jenkin, who published a single novel, The Flaw (1929), about industrial life in Yorkshire. She reportedly also published a number of periodical stories using the same pseudonym.

And finally, a tidbit I missed the first time around. I've had Paid to Be Safe (1948), a novel about the World War II Air Transport Auxiliary, on my war list for ages, and I've had one of its two authors, March Cost (as Margaret Morrison), on my author list, but had somehow left off Cost's co-author, PAMELA TULK-HART. As far as I can tell, Tulk-Hart didn't publish any other books, but she has now at long last been added to the list.

Along with a miscellany of others, the next post will contain a woman who's not so well known for her one novel as she is for her hauntings…


  1. OK, maybe it's a hold over from the Oscars last evening, but the covers of both "The ZFault Undone," and"Emma COnquest" remind me of that famous shot from "Gone with the Wind," "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again!"

    1. Having also watched the Oscars, I definitely get that too looking back at the covers. Nice to see the little GWTW clip in there during the awards.

  2. Good heavens, Scott, what a pot pourri of writers and books. I can scarcely keep up, and certainly some of them sound like the edge of strange.

    I do love coming here to peek behind the door to amazing books I certainly would otherwise never have heard of.

    1. YOU can scarcely keep up, Susan?!?! But of course, for the most part I love being overwhelmed by authors (you never know when a golden nugget is going to come to light--though I'm not sure it will with any of these??). On the other hand, there are the times when I bury my head in the sand and happily read Agatha Christie or Gladys Mitchell and put all the as-yet-undiscovered authors out of my mind completely...

    2. OK, Scott, you got me inspired - I have a copy of Gladys Mitchell's "Watson's Choice," that has been gathering dust. It is NOW on the TOP of the TBR pile, and I will start tonight!

  3. How strikingly similar those covers are!

  4. I think I may to about to add to the confusion regarding H M Capes! Footsteps on the Ward was published well before the 1910 you cite. It appeared in a magazine called The Month and in parts in The New Zealand Tablet in 1893.
    The copy of Footsteps in the Wing I have in front of me has a note saying that it appeared in the Month about 15 years earlier, so I guess 1910 is about right for the book publication. It has a lovely colour plate frontispiece.


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