‘I have found another way… ‘So wrote fantasy novelist Edith Allonby (1875 – 1905) in a note found on her lap following her suicide, aged just thirty, in December 1905. When discovered she was sitting in a comfortable chair dressed in a silk evening gown with fresh flowers in her hair. By her side was an empty bottle of phenol (carbolic acid), the poison of choice (bleach was another) for many suicides in the UK at that time, due to its availability and quick, but painful, action.
For Allonby, a schoolmistress from Cartmel, Lancashire whose two previous works of ‘ satirical fantasy ‘, Jewel Sowers (1903) and Marigold (1905), both set on the imaginary planet of Lucifram, had not sold well, there seemed little choice. In her suicide note she explained that after four years of labour on her latest book , a spiritual fantasy about life and death that she claimed had been given to her by God, her publisher Greening had rejected the manuscript, as had other publishers. ‘I have tried in vain ‘, she wrote,’ …yet shall The Fulfilment reach the people to whom I appeal, for I have found another way…’
That way was an act that would make her posthumous book a sensation at the time, for Greening did change their minds about its publication once the author was dead. It came out in a limited edition, which makes it and her previous two novels, scarce and valuable items today. It is possible that originally all the publishers to whom it was shown simply found the subject matter of The Fulfilmenttoo difficult to deal with. The author herself admitted that her book contained ‘either truth or page upon page of blasphemy ‘. Today, we are more open minded on spiritual matters. [R.M.Healey]
Found tucked away in the same envelope with the letter ( see earlier Jot) written to Oliver Onions from Rupert Croft-Cooke is a short letter dated May 24th1962 from the very prolific novelist and magazine contributor Marguerite Evans ( 1886 – 1964) to fellow novelist Berta Ruck (1878 – 1978), wife of Oliver Onions. Evans wrote under three pen names—Oliver Sandys—which she used on some of her headed notepaper—Marguerite Barclay (using her given name) and Countess Barcynska. Evans published an incredible 130 novels between 1911 and 1946, and her oeuvre also includes non-fiction. She has been described as a purveyor of ’middlebrow fiction ‘, which as one critic has pointed out, is not a helpful term in her case. Several of her novels were filmed, most notably ‘The Pleasure Garden’( 1925), which was Alfred Hitchcock’s first completed film as director.
Ruck and Evans did not live too far from one another –Ruck in Aberdovey and Evans at The Ancient House, Little Stretton, Shropshire. In the letter Evans promises to visit the older woman:
‘Would give anything for a long, long chat with you…Am on last lap of book & feeling very pregnant. Thank heaven for that because before, the sensation was like a bad ‘ mis ‘ ! How strange this opus creation in its likeness to those functions. Have you not felt the same?
I do hope EAT. is better. Tell him I am truly and regularlyconcentrating on him & it would be lovely to hear he is better & stronger. This isn’t a letter . It is to send love.
Two years later Evans was dead. Her husband Caradoc, who she had married in 1933, had died aged just 67, back in 1945. A controversial writer, whose collection of short stories, My People(1915) earned him the unenviable title ‘ the best-hated man in Wales’, is now recognised as ‘ the founding father of Anglo-Welsh writing’. On his death Marguerite paid him the greatest tribute by publishing his biography. Her own autobiography, Full and Frank, may shed some light on her friendship with Ruck and may also identify EAT. Ruck died in 1978 aged 100.
I found Chris Hopkins’ online paper ‘ Self-portrait of the Middlebrow as artist’ useful in the compilation of this Jot. [R.M.Healey]
Here is a puzzle. Found among some ephemera at Jot HQ is this six-page photocopy of a typewritten squib entitled ‘My Life and Times, by an anonymous Jeffrey Kwintner’. The piece is obviously a satire on the business dealings of the real-life Jeffrey Kwintner, a well known entrepreneur of the Swinging Sixties who with John Simons co-founded the ‘Squire Shop ‘ in King’s Road, Chelsea and a string of sixteen menswear shops called ‘Village Gate’. He ended up founding the much admired Village Bookshop, Regent’s Street, which eventually went out of business.
The satire is written in the first person and is cast in the form of a psychedelic dream sequence, influenced partly by Dickens’ Christmas Carol. In it Kwintner leaves home for his office in King’s Road, where he has some strange encounters with a telephone caller who asks him if his name is Lucifer, a dancer with a debit book in his hand, a cashier who faints at the sight of him, and a shrouded figure who introduces himself as Jack the Jive, an alteration tailor Kwintner had once known from his early days in the fashion business, who suspects him of betraying a trade secret. Soon afterwards a mysterious telephone caller with an oriental voice asks him if he is Mao-Tse- Cohen; then an Irish worker in his warehouse calls him a ‘ heathen Managing Director ‘ and a ‘ Decadent Capitalist Renegade’. Kwintner runs out into the street and takes refuge in a shop called Cassidy One, where he proceeds to empty the till, the assistant crying ‘ Petty cash. God save Malcolm Muggeridge and all who sail in him.’ Continue reading →
Gleaned from the archive of the publishers Joan and Eric Stevens are two letters to Eric from the novelist and biographer Oliver Stonor, aka Morchard Bishop (1903 – 1987), from his home in Morebath, on the Devon-Somerset border. The first letter, dated November 1979, mostly concerns the worth of the diarist Emily Shore, who Eric doesn’t consider a ‘ writer ‘, but who is stoutly defended by Stonor as being ‘ a very good writer indeed ‘. Stonor, however, does share Eric’s opinion that ‘people in University English departments ‘would be unlikely to know about her. Stonor also feels that the academic study of English is ‘an activity which can happily be carried out without the intervention of pastors and masters ‘. Stonor, it should be noted, did not attend University.
The second letter dates from September 1986 and is far more revealing about the author’s early literary activities. On mentioning to Eric his enjoyment of Wilfred Partington’s biography of the notorious bibliographer and forger Thomas J. Wise, he recalls his early friendship with the novelist and ghost-story writer Violet Hunt, who hosted literary salons to which Ezra Pound, Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence and Henry James were invited. Hunt was the daughter of the Victorian artist Alfred William Hunt, who had Pre-Raphaelite friends. On one visit she declared to Stonor that “Tommy Wise, that old scoundrel, has just been here and carried off a lot of old rubbish with him!” Hunt supplied no further details, but as a committed modernist she would have viewed anything relating to Victorian art—especially Pre-Raphaelitism—as ‘rubbish’. Wise, on the other hand, had a scholarly interest in Robert Browning, John Ruskin and their correspondents, many of whom were artists. Wise was a dealer too. ‘She always had to haggle with him’, Stonor notes. Continue reading →
As we have noted in a previous Jot, Eric Mosbacher, journalist, critic and acclaimed translator, was a hard man to please. When asked by the Souvenir Press to recommend a foreign language text for translation into English his judgement was invariably that he was unable to do so. We have already seen in a previous Jot that his failure to see the merits of ‘ The Quest for Fire ‘, probably cost the Souvenir Press oodles of money when the film adapted from another translation made many millions at the Box Office. The discovery of two further reports by Mosbacher dating from the same period show the failings of his critical judgement. He rejected Jean Ray’s horror story ‘Malpertius’ (1943) on the grounds that it had failed to make his flesh creep and was, in any case, badly put together. In 1973 this too had been made into a film starring Orson Welles and Susan Hampshire, which had been adapted from the original Flemish production of 1971. Doubtless the Souvenir Press wished to cash in on its success, but Eric said no, and that was that.
In 1979 Gustav Meyrink’s bizarre tale of 1916, ‘Das Grune Gesicht’ (The Green Face) had also got a thumbs down from Mosbacher, who was baffled by its’ uncanny mixture of the grotesque, the mystical, the surrealist-before-its-time.’ He couldn’t recommend a book that, in spite of all his efforts, he had not understood. Eric’s rather sardonic summary of its plot reflects his lack of enthusiasm: Continue reading →
La Guerre du Feu, an early fantasy novel, probably written by Joseph Henri Honore Boex (1856 – 1940), one of two Belgian brothers who often wrote fiction together under the pseudonym J.H Rosny-Aine. was published in 1911 by the Bibliotheque-Charpentier in Paris. It is said to have been first translated into English by Harold Talbott in 1967. If this is true, it is odd that the acclaimed journalist and translator Eric Mosbacher in his note of 8.5.1979 ( shown) stated that this ‘ remarkably uninspired story’ was ‘ totally undeserving of translation ‘ and that the Souvenir Press should decline it. It is possible, of course, that a translation into a language other than English was proposed. Mosbacher translated from French, Italian and German.
Mosbacher’s description of the original novel reflects his utter disdain for it; the final line of his summary: ‘the caste (sic) also includes mammoths, tigers, etc’ says it all. Nevertheless, the producer of the movie, set in palaeolithic Europe, and based on the translation, seems to have been happy with the story, and ‘The Quest for Fire’ , with a budget of $12m, a director in Jean-Jacques Arnaud, and a cast that included the facially challenged Ron Perlman in his debut role and Rae Dawn Chong as the love interest, was released in 1981. It made $40m at the box office, gave Chong a well deserved award for her performance and garnered an Academy Award for make –up. Not bad, considering that the dialogue was restricted to grunts and shrieks. It launched the movie careers of both Chong and Perlman, with the latter starring as the deformed, simian-like creature Salvatore in The Name of the Rose.
It is not known whether Mosbacher ever saw the movie (unlikely) or that he regretted not accepting the invitation to translate it, if indeed the job had been offered to him. He and his wife, Gwenda David, also a translator and who incidentally I visited in her Hampstead home years later, continue to work together until his death in 1997. [R.M.Healey]
Found – the typescript of a review by Gerald Heard of J.W. Dunne’s The Serial Universe (1934). Dunne proposed that our experience of time as linear was an illusion brought about by human consciousness. He argued that past, present and future were continuous in a higher-dimensional reality and only experienced sequentially because of our mental perception of them. He went further, proposing an infinite regress of higher time dimensions inhabited by the conscious observer, which he called “serial time.” In his time Dunne’s work was highly influential, Aldous Huxley (a friend of Gerald Heard) J.P. Priestley and T.S. Eliot all used his ideas in their work. Gerald Heard is sometimes cited as a proto hippie or father of the ‘New Age’ movement. Wikipedia writes: ‘His work was a forerunner of, and influence on, the consciousness development movement that has spread in the Western world since the 1960s.’ He also wrote several still rated supernatural fantasies. This typescript was probably published in a newspaper at the time.
MR. DUNNE'S THEORY
'IMMENSELY IMPORTANT' FOR MAN
The Serial Universe. By J. W. Dunne.
(Faber. 10s. 6d.)
Reviewed by GERALD HEARD
In pre-Nazi days in Germany there used to be a popular print. It showed one of the great German philosophers walking along the main street of his home town with his manuscript under his arm, on the way to the printers. He keeps close to the wall because down the street's centre dashes that dreaded black travelling carriage inside which can be seen Napoleon, Europe's tyrant, rushing from-one battlefield to another.
Found - part of a letter to Peter Haining from W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts about an intended book on post-war British pulps. Neither WorldCat or Copac show such a book among Lofts's oeuvre.The manuscript could possibly be among Haining's papers which we are still sifting through. Almost all of the authors mentioned can be found at the Sf Encyclopaedia site but even there details can be quite scant. Some of these pulps are now quite valuable - There Were No Asper Ladies, for example, features an occult detective (Lucian Carolus) and is a full blown vampire novel.
Many thanks for your list of fifties books. An interesting little list as well. As I said, I'll return the favour at the top of the list and work my way down (so expect some jumping about!).
I don't; know anything about David Scott-Moncrieff, apart from the act that he had a second collection of horror stories. They were published in 1948 and 1949.
A useful guide to scientific words for the Science Fiction enthusiast. It first appeared as monthly instalments in Authentic Science Fiction and was printed and published as a booklet by Hamilton & co., in the Goldhawk Road, London W 12. It was compiled by H.J. Campbell. Being 1954 very little is related to computers. At C you will find Cybernetics and at B Betelgeuse...
Absolute. Not relative. Independent of all scale and comparisons. E.g., zero temperature, number, the speed of light.
Acceleration. Rate of change of velocity. Increasing velocity is positive acceleration; decreasing velocity is negative acceleration. The average acceleration of any body falling to Earth in a vacuum is 32 feet per second per second.
Achromatic. Applied to optical apparatus which gives images free from colored fringes. A. lenses have one sense of crown glass and one of flint glass. The flint lens corrects dispersion caused by the crown glass.
Aerolite. (Sometimes called ‘aerolith’). A stony meteorite, as distinct from a metallic one. A meteorite that is a mixture of stone and metal, but preponderantly stone would be called aerolithic.
Albedo. A measure of the brightness of celestial bodies that shine by reflected light. Technically, it is the amount of light a body reflects in proportion to the amount that falls on it. The Moon’s albedo is 7%; that of Venus 65%.
This the second part of this quest by the great researcher Lofts from circa 1975…there is a piece on Mann at Wikipedia, giving his real name as Charles Henry Cannell and with more up to date information and an earlier birth date (1882). Last year a biography appeared The Shadow of Mr Vivian: The Life of E. Charles Vivian (1882-1947) by Peter Berresford Ellis.
On the Trail of the Mysterious "Jack Mann". By W. O. G. Lofts.
The mysterious "Jack Mann" seems to be in the news again of late, especially with the excellent news that Bookfinger have started to republish his novels. The first entitled 'Grey Shapes' being excellently revised by Lillian Carlin, a few issues of this magazine ago.
I use the expression 'mysterious' relating to "Jack Mann" in the sense, that it was only recent I was able to satisfy myself regarding his real identity. At least here in England his real name has been a matter of much conjecture for many years. He suddenly appeared in the world of fiction in 1933, when he wrote two novels for the publishers Wright and Brown. This firm who had offices in Farringdon Avenue, London, just off the mighty Fleet Street was run by two elderly gentlemen a Mr Wright and Mr Brown. Apart from their popular fiction books being sold cheaply to the public and libraries, the owners were also extremely popular with Sexton Blake pulp writers. These authors simply changed the name of Sexton Blake and his assistant Tinker to some other names, and their whole original Blake stories were published as 'new; to the unsuspecting public.
Found among the papers of the writer Peter Haining, this piece (the first of two) by the writer and expert on popular fiction and juvenile literature W.O.G. Lofts. It is on the elusive writer of supernatural fiction Jack Mann (real name E.C.Vivian (but also known as Charles Henry Cannell, A.K. Walton, Sydney Barrie Lynd, Galbraith Nicholson and Barry Lynd.) As Jack Mann his books are highly collectable and some of considerable value. Lofts starts off by tracing his daughter...
Report by W. O. G. Lofts
Jack Mann, Report of Visit to Mrs. K. Ashton. Monday July 7th 1975.
Frank Vernon Lay and myself arrived at Mrs. Ashton's flat at 7pm sharp which is situated in a Mews off Beaumont Street, London. Mrs. Ashton was about 60 well groomed, and obviously well educated. Unfortunately the meeting on the whole was a great disappointment as we were not there more than 15 minutes. Mrs. A who was born during the First World War, knew nothing about E. C. V's Hutchinson (publishing) activities. She had no copies or records of the magazines and was not very expert (in my opinion) of his stories. The majority of her family papers were destroyed during the last war. The facts gleaned that elucidated several things however were interesting.
Charles Henry Cannell, was his real name, and he was the son of a Norfolk farmer. He had a serious dispute with him early in life, and so changed it. His mother did not remarry, and he had no brothers or nephews, only two sisters whom he did not keep in contact with. He served in the Boer War, but she did not think in the Great War. In the last was he was an Air-Raid warden. An early writing venture was "Books for the Bairns' edited by William Stead (very juvenile material) and he also working in collaboration with the author J. D. Beresford - material not known. He wrote some Westerns for Ward Lock under the name of Barry Lynd., and also other material for 'Wind and Water' magazine. E. C. V. certainly and without question was JACK MANN, and he wrote the stories entirely by himself. His agent was not concerned in this and probably he (the agent) felt disgruntled and this was the reason why he was not interested to talk about it. Mrs Ashton could not throw any light on the large number of books that came on the market though curiously this was the same time she moved from London to North Wales. Its more than likely they were originally her own father's autographed copies (and from her mother's) and she did not want to admit it. She seemed to me vague in places (e.g. the nickname her father called her mother inscribed in books) but did promise to look through all the papers when she had time. We had a glass of sherry and then left!
Poster for Tom's Midnight Garden
(Leeds Children's Theatre)
Found in the Peter Haining hoard a rare book catalogue from about 1990 with an introduction ('Chat Dept.') by the cataloguer. This was J. J. Rigden (Books) of Kent, dealing mostly in fantasy-- if still around he would be pushing 90. These 'chats' by dealers are much prized. A dealer once told me that when he omitted them sales went down and there were protests…this one is a classic of its kind:
The onset of autumn.. the approach of Christmas.. the inevitable rise in postal costs.. This leads us nicely on to a point we must make clear. We always despatch your parcels by the cheapest possible rate. Since we live in a mad world, this sometimes means first class letter rate, rather than a parcel rate.
Over a wet Bank Holiday weekend, we watched a children's fantasy on T.V. Time Slip always a popular subject, now incorporated with sci-fi. Many famous authors have written around this theme, both adult and children's. My first remembered introduction to it was listening in the 1930's to Saturday Night Theatre. The B.B.C drama players put on some wonderful plays J. M. Barrie's "Mary Rose" made a great impression on me. My first introduction to Barrie apart front eh magical Peter Pan of course. Another play that filled me with horror was W. W. Jacobs "The Monkey Paw". Two themes that occur over and over again in children's stories, time slip and three wishes. Always in the three wishes stories the last wish has to be used to 'undo' the first two! (Well, I say "always".. someone will come up with a three wishes story that proves me wrong!) If time slip is a theme that interests you, have you read Alison Uttley's 'Traveller in Time', Lucy's Boston's 'Green Knowe' stories, Jane Curry' s' The Daybreakers', 'Moondial'.. I think this was by Helen Cresswell, quite recent so to in the reference book). These are some of the lesser known titles on this theme. Tom's Midnight Garden everyone known about. Stories so much more believable than the film just shown.. 'Back to the Future'.
Found - a publisher's flyer loosely inserted in a copy of Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie's Mithraic Mysteries (Platonist Press, Alpine, N.J 1925.) The Platonist Press seems to have flourished between 1900 and 1930 publishing books on philosophy, occult speculation, mysticism and the occasional work of fantasy fiction (including Guthrie's Bleiler listed A Romance Of Two Centuries. A Tale of the Year 2025 which appeared in 1919.) This flyer is eccentric, oddly surreal and now politically slightly dubious. It was probably the work of Guthrie. There is little on the Platonist Press and some of these works may be 'ghosts' (i.e they were never published.) They appear to have moved from Alpine, New Jersey to North Yonkers, NY -which puts this advert some time in the 1920s...
SPICY SITUATIONS, and Dr Kenneth Guthrie's REMEDIES The Board of Education's Examiner had Just turned down the blushing Miss Teacher Candidate. Weeping, she wailed, Is there no hope at all for me?Oh yes; purred he. Try again next year!What could I study in the meanwhile?Dr Guthrie's TEACHERS' PROBLEMS & HOW TO SOLVE THEM, $1.25; 'Value and Limits of the History of Education,' and 'The Mother-Tongue Method of Teaching Modern Languages,' each 30 cents.Will that pass me?Really, Miss, you are too pretty to teach school. Get his Progressive Complete Eduction, or Marriage as the Supreme School of Life, $1.25.And if I pass examination on it?Then I will marry you,Thanks, kind sir! Continue reading →
Found in a slim volume of verse a letter by the poet Herbert Palmer about an evening spent with C.S.Lewis. The book was A Sword in the Desert: a Book of Poems and Verses for the Present Times (Harrap 1946.)
It is a signed presentation copy: 'With best Birthday wishes to Edgar from Bert August 1946.' Edgar is unknown (so far.) Tipped in at the front is a handwritten signed letter from the author to Edgar written on a Tuesday (probably 1946). It reads thus:
Dear Edgar. I think I have remembered your birthday to date this year.
I spent very exciting evening with Lewis (in) the middle of June.He is not the ascetic people think – but a convivial Irishman. Looks something between a jolly priest and a country publican with a dash of St Francis thrown in. A very good poet too. Which means he has his feet very firm on the ground. We sat up till midnight reading our poems to one another. He doesn't like women - says all the women he knows are either 'saints or devils, – chiefly devils.Hell. I presume from his standpoint, is chiefly populated by women.
Love to Mary & Winifred, Bert.'
On the verso of the letter is a signed typed note from Lewis to Palmer written from Magdalen College, Oxford and dated 9th May 1946 consisting of about 20 words in which he confirms the day they are to meet. Palmer has CROSSED OUT the signature and the typing in ink, although they are still very legible. In about 1945-46 Palmer was responsible for introducing Lewis to Ruth Pitter, of whom Lewis said that if he was the kind of man who got married, he would have wanted to marry her. The book's printed dedication is to Robert Gathorne-Hardy, poet and botanist.
Found - a scarce pamphlet outlining the life of Alan Noel Latimer ('Tim') Munby (1913 - 1974). He was born on Christmas Day, hence the unused name 'Noel.' The Victorian diarist and poet Arthur Munby ('Man of Two Worlds' of Derek Hudson's book) who 'adored the roughest working-girls' and was for years secretly married to his kitchen-maid was his great-uncle.As a schoolboy and as an undergraduate (at King's College, 1932-35) he collected books; for a brief period after graduation he worked at Quaritch's bookshop. During the war he joined the Territorials (Queen Victoria Rifles); he was captured at Calais in 1940 and held as a prisoner of war in Germany for 5 years. On his return to England he worked at Sotheby's, then in 1947 was appointed College Librarian at King's. He is best known for an excellent collection of ghost stories The Alabaster Hand. Ghost fiction watchers Boucher and McComas praised the stories in The Alabaster Hand as 'quietly terrifying modernizations of the M.R. James tradition.' M.R. James was also a Cambridge academic and Cambridge produced several other writers of fantastic fiction.. The pamphlet is typical of the slim memorial papers turned out at the great universities when a distinguished or well known colleague had died.
From Fairies at Work and Play by Geoffrey Hodson. Published by the Theosophical Society in 1925 (and still in print) the book is a sort of Varieties of Religious Experience anthology of meetings with and sightings of fairies, elves,devas, sylphs, 'mannikins', gnomes and brownies. All the observations are by Geoffrey Hodson (1886-1983) who wrote many other religious and occult works in a long and productive life.
Dancing Fairies Lancashire, 1921
We are surrounded by a dancing group of lovely female fairies. They are laughing and full of joy.
The leader in this case is a female figure, probably two feet high, surrounded by transparent flowing drapery. There is a star on her forehead, and she has large wings which glisten with pale, delicate shades from pink to lavender; in rapid movement, however, the effect of them is white.
Her hair is light golden brown, and unlike that of the lesser fairies, streams behind her and merges with the flowing forces of her aura. The form is perfectly modelled and rounded, like that of a young girl; the right hand holds a wand.
Although her expression is one of purity and ingenuousness, her face is at the same time stamped with a decided impression of power. This is especially noticeable in the clear blue eyes, which glow like flame, and have all the appearance of a living fire. Her brow is broad and noble, her features small and rounded, the tiny ears are a poem of physical perfection. There are no angles in this transcendently beautiful form. The bearing of head, neck and shoulders is queenly, and the whole pose is a model of grace and beauty.