Friday, August 23, 2019

Donald Armour

Donald Armour (b. London, 23 May 1908; d. Hindhead, Surrey, 2 July 1988)

Donald Armour was the son of Donald John Armour (1869-1933), an eminent Canadian-born brain surgeon, educated in Toronto (M.B. 1891) and at the University of London (M.B. 1894; L.R.C.P 1896; M.R.C.P. and M.R.C.S. 1897), where he also taught for a time, and his wife [Marie] Louise Clark Mitchel (1873-1954), who were married in Cobourg, Ontario, on 2 October 1901.  Donald had two older sisters. Armour and his family were Catholics.

Donald was educated at Ladycross Preparatory School, Seaford, and the Downside School, Somerset. He matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, in October 1926 (B.A. December 1929). He married Mary Consuelo Hutton (1908-2007) in Marylebone, London, on 17 November 1932. They had one son and one daughter.
Armour worked as an advertising copywriter in London through the 1930s, served in the Royal Corps of Signals from 1939-1945, and managed an advertising agency in Cape Town, South Africa, from 1947 through 1959.  From 1960 through 1972, he worked in Alicante, Spain, returning to England and settling in Devonshire from 1972 to 1986, before moving at last to Hindhead, Surrey, two years before his death.

Armour published two novels, the first short and the second much longer. The first, Swept and Garnished (London: Laidlaw Books, [October] 1938), came from a very short-lived publishing firm, who had also planned to publish in 1939 Armour's second novel, So Fast He Ran (London: Chapman and Hall, [May] 1940), but went out of business before doing so, and the book was passed on to another publisher. Both novels are fantastical in nature.

Swept and Garnished has been championed as a lost masterpiece, but that somewhat overstates its value. The simple plot successfully circumscribes the happenings between two clergyman rivals in a small town in the West Country, one a more modern Anglican vicar, the other a more traditional Catholic priest. The devil finds an inroad via the vicar and his family, and it is the Catholic priest who realizes that something truly evil is happening and must work to thwart it.

So Fast He Ran is a considerably more ambitious work. It is a time-slip novel, in which a man in the present escapes danger by successive transportations into similarly fraught situations in the past, first to the time of King Arthur, then to the time of Boudicca, and still further back to a Neolithic time.

These two novels are apparently Armour's only published fiction. It is a pity that Armour turned away from literature.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ledyard M. Bailey

Ledyard M. Bailey (b. Painesville, Ohio, 22 June 1862; d. Ridgewood, New Jersey, 19 November 1938)

Ledyard M. Bailey contributed one single novelette to Weird Tales, "The Cobra Lily" in the January 1924 issue. Sadly, it is not a very good story, and it is more an adventure romance than a weird tale. It concerns a sacred flower used in serpent worship in the Yucatan, and some members of the cult. The plot is filled with cliches and the story weak and of little interest. Bailey contributed over a dozen stories to magazines in the 1920s, ranging from 1924 through 1928, in titles such as The Blue Book Magazine, Popular Magazine, McClure's and Women's Home Companion. Bailey published no books, and few of his stories have been reprinted.

Ledyard Marlborough Bailey was the son of Nathaniel D. Bailey. He graduated from Western Reserve College in Ohio (now Case Western Reserve), later settling in Utah. Around 1892 he married Anne Austin (1866-1935). They had two daughters, the younger of which died as an infant. He managed the Portland Cement company in Salt Lake City for many years. He also served as executive secretary of the Utah Food and Fuel supply organization during the World War. After his retirement, Bailey moved to southern California. He was visiting his daughter in New Jersey when he died.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Gilbert Wakefield

Gilbert Wakefield (b. Sandgate, Kent, 23 April 1892; d. London, 4 July 1963)

Gilbert Edward Wakefield was the youngest son of the Reverend Henry Russell Wakefield (1854-1933), after 1911, the Bishop of Birmingham, and his wife Frances Sophia, nee Dallaway (1856-1919), Gilbert had one sister and two brothers, one of whom was H. Russell Wakefield (1888-1964), the ghost story writer. His father also published a number of books and pamphlets on religious topics.

Gilbert was educated at Harrow, and at University College, Oxford. He served in the war, and was wounded in France, and afterwards worked in the Intelligence Department at the War Office. In 1919 he was called to the bar and became a barrister for nearly ten years, though his interests clearly lay with the theatre. In 1920 he married the stage and (later) film actress Isabel Jeans (1891-1985). Jeans had previously been married to actor Claude Rains from 1913-1915. The couple had no children.

Gilbert authored a number of plays (see the list, current up to 1938, at right). Only one of the plays appeared in book form, Room for Two (1938), and it constitutes Gilbert's only book. It is a farce about a female impersonator. Gilbert's best known work was probably the play "Counsel's Opinion", first produced in 1931. It was made into a film of the same title in 1933 (now considered a lost film), and remade as The Divorce of Lady X (1938), starring Laurence Olivier in the lead role. As a 1930s romantic comedy, it is well-done. A remake as Counsel's Opinon came out in 1949. Another of Gilbert's plays, Room for Two, was filmed in 1940.

Gilbert had been the dramatic critic for the Saturday Review from 1930-1932.  He also worked for a while with London Film Productions as a scenario writer. In person, he was self-deprecating, and having rebelled against his church-upbringing, he held a respect for truth and a contempt for sham. Often in ill-health, he died in hospital at the age of 71. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Helen Oakley

Helen Oakley (b. New York, New York, 10 February 1906; d. Manhasset, New York, 4 January 2003)

Helen Fairchild McElvey was the middle of three children of Ralph Huntington McElvey (1877-1957), an artist, and Helen A. Fairchild (1879-1964), who were married on 15 July 1903.  Helen had two brothers.

Helen graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1928. She founded a bookshop in New York City in 1929, and ran it for twelve years. Helen married Walter T. Oakley (1913-2000), who worked in publishing, on 6 August 1938. She and her husband settled in Manhasset on Long Island. They had two daughters. Later she taught art and creative writing classes and worked as a library assistant. 
Helen Oakley

As Helen Oakley, she published four books of fiction for young girls:  The Horse on the Hill (1957); The Ranch by the Sea (1959); The Enchanter's Wheel (1962); and Freedom's Daughter (1968). She also compiled a small monograph, An Alphabet of Christmas Words (1966), as selected by Helen McKelvey Oakley.

Walter Oakley
As Helen McK. Oakley she wrote a booklet Christopher Morley on Long Island (1967), about the once well-known author Christopher Morley (1890-1957) who had lived for many years in nearby Roslyn, Long Island. Oakley became greatly interested in Morley, and wrote the only (to-date) full-length biography of him, Three Hours for Lunch: The Life and Times of Christopher Morley (1976).  It was published by Watermill Publishers, a short-lived firm run by Arthur Coleman that published a half dozen books between 1973 and 1979, four of them written by Coleman himself. Three Hours for Lunch is Oakley's most significant book.

Oakley died in Manhasset about one month shy of her 97th birthday. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Maggie-Owen Wadelton

Maggie-Owen Wadelton (b. Roscommon, Ireland, 24 January 1894?; d. Indianapolis, Indiana, 4 February 1972)

Maggie-Owen Wadelton published four books in the 1940s. Three are autobiographical, and the fourth is a supernatural novel. The autobiographical books are very problemmatic because none of the details of Wadelton's early life, and the names of her relations, as given in the three books, can be confirmed through genealogical resources like censuses and birth and marriage records. And in fact Wadelton in the mid-1940s gave conflicting information to two biographical references, including Who's Who (1944 supplement) and Catholic Authors (1948). Even bibliographically there are problems with her works, including two supposedly published books which do not seem to exist.

Her first autobiographical book was The Book of Maggie Owen (1941), which was evidently based upon (yet revised from) some diaries of her childhood in Ireland that had recently come back into her possession (after the death of her great aunt in Ireland). The book gives no author name other than Maggie Owen, and it begins on her supposed twelfth birthday of 24 January 1908. The second volume, Maggie No Doubt (1943), as by Maggie-Owen Wadelton (the same byline as her two subsequent books), and it covers her time in Ireland, America, England and France up to her third marriage in June 1917 to an American reserve captain in World War I. After 1917, Maggie-Owen's life is fairly well documented, and this time period is also covered in her third autobiography (and final book) Gay, Wild and Free: From Captain's Wife to Colonel's Lady (1949).

Maggie-Owen's story, as can be pieced together from the first two autobiographies, is that her young mother (married at age fourteen) had died as Maggie-Owen was born, and her father, who was the seventh child of a family that had moved to America and left him behind in Ireland, abandoned the baby girl with her mother's family and soon afterwards perished in battle in Africa or India. Maggie-Owen was raised mostly by two great-aunts, and some of their other relations. After a trip to New York where she met some of her father's family, they petitioned the Irish court for custody of the minor Maggie-Owen to be given to them, and a plot was hatched that a sham-marriage for Maggie-Owen took place in France with a gentleman temporarily unable to marry the woman he loved. The “marriage” was annulled after some twenty-two months, when Maggie-Owen reached the age of eighteen. Her second marriage, probably in the summer of 1915, was to her childhood love Edward, who was killed in the war three weeks later.

Tommy Wadelton
Maggie-Owen Wadelton and her third husband Thomas Dorrington Wadelton, Jr. (1886-1945) had one child, a son, Thomas Dorrington Wadelton III (1925*-1974), who after publishing two short stories was courted by publishers, and thereafter produced four books (as by Tommy Wadelton) in the early 1940s when he was very young. These include humorous portrayals of his mother and father, respectively, in My Mother Is a Violent Woman (1940) and My Father Is a Quiet Man (1941), and of himself, in Army Brat (1943), which was made into a film as Little Mister Jim (1946). A final book was Silver Buckles on His Knee (1945). Tommy went on to study photography and worked as feature photographer at the Indianapolis Star for more than twenty-two years. When Colonel Wadelton retired from the army in 1939, after some twenty moves to various postings, the family settled in Indianapolis.

Maggie-Owen's birthname, birthyear, and parentage is uncertain. From The Book of Maggie Own, it would seem that she was born in 1896, but in other places the year is given as 1895, 1894, or even (in the Social Security Death Index) as 1890. She told Catholic Authors in 1948 that her birthname was “Margret [sic] Kearns” but she gives it in The Book of Maggie Owen as “Margret Owen” and in Maggie No Doubt as “Margret-Owen Coughlin.” Her parent's names are given variously as Maggie-Kate Melody and Owen Coughlin (in Maggie No Doubt) and on her 1972 Indiana death certificate as Maggieowen O'Malley Kierns and Phenis Paul Kierns (the informant being her son Tommy, but here her birthdate is listed as 23 January rather than the usual 24 January). Her father's family in America appear in The Book of Maggie Owen as the Coughlins. Some Kearns relations of Van Etten (New York?) appear actually to have been of Rhinebeck, New York, where in the 1940s and 1950s Maggie-Owen visited the Mistresses Mary Kearns and Catherine Kearns, who are called in contemporary newspaper accounts her “sisters.” (And Mary Ellen Kearns is the dedicatee of Maggie no Doubt.)

Her first husband's name is given in Maggie No Doubt as Ernest Ruthven Kenmore, but in the 1944 Who's Who as Ernest Leslie Kenmore. Her second husband appears as Edward Bootham Turner-Holt. Her great aunts as Ann (Melody) Conner, and her sister Kate Melody, elsewhere Kate Holt Melody. In the 1920 and 1930 US Censuses, Maggie-Owen's name is given as “Jeanne K. Wadelton.” Yet in a letter to the Indianapolis Star in 1940 she signed her name as "Maggie-Jeanne Wadelton."

All these discrepancies are confusing. One can presume that her birthname was probably Margret Jeanne Kearns. (A 1941 newspaper profile notes that the "Owen" is a Gaelic form of Eugenia, which perhaps explains her evolving nickname Maggie-Jeanne / Maggie-Owen.) She also claimed to have used for some years the surname of her great aunt, named as Kate Melody in her autobiographies. 

Her Who's Who entry lists her education at the Sacred Heart Convent, Paris, 1909-1911, and at Carshallton House in Surrey for 1911-1912. She also volunteered as a member of the British Ambulance Service in World War I.

Catholic Authors notes that “under the name of Melody she wrote Sheila and Ponobscot Ferry.” I can find no trace of any such publications. In a 3 October 1943 Indianapolis Star newspaper profile, she reportedly began writing after the stock market crash of 1929, and sold verse to Poetry, a lengthy article on the history of lace to a New York department store, and various short stories to pulp magazines. In the newspaper profile Wadelton notes: “Then I wrote a novel, which is probably the worst book ever written. It is full of rape and murder and everything terrible. I called it 'Sheila.' Scribner's published it--though I don't see why.” None of these publications have been traced. She did write at least one other novel, finished in the summer of 1947, titled Gillian Benedict, about an alcoholic woman in London between the wars. It was turned down by Bobbs-Merrill, who had published her other books.

Her one known and published novel Sarah Mandrake (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, [February] 1946) is the work that concerns us here. Sarah Mandrake has restored a large mansion on the Hudson River in Dutchess County, New York (the setting is based on the house Wadelton visited as a child, as described in her first autobiography). After living there for a while, she disappears, leaving the house to a relative, Stephen Ellers, a British war veteran with his wife and infants, who must unravel the story of her life and of her legacy. The Catholic World called the book a “fascinating, red-blooded ghost-story 'in modern dress'” (July 1946); while Kirkus called it “with deliberate British formality,a sometimes overplayed, overlong tale of evil and retribution, real and spectral, to satisfy some tastes” (January 1946). Sarah Mandrake was reprinted in 1966 as a Paperback Library Gothic.

Both Maggie-Owen Wadelton and her husband are buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

* Tommy's birthyear is usually given as 1926 or 1927, but U.K. Birth records confirm he was born in 1925.

Monday, June 10, 2019

G.E. Locke

G.E. Locke (b. Boston, 12 October 1887; d. Boston, 1945)

Gladys Edson Locke was the only child of Winfield Scott Locke (1861-1931), a "ladies underwear merchant" according to the 1900 US Census, and Caroline Augusta Edson (1862-1936), who were married in Boston on 2 December 1886.

She was graduated from the Girls' Latin School in Boston in 1906, and from Boston University (A.B. 1910; A.M. 1911) and Simmons College (Library Science, 1916).  She worked as a tutor in Latin, French and Italian from 1908-1914, and taught Latin and English at a high school in Milford, New Hampshire, for 1915-1916. In 1917 she became a cataloguer at the Boston Public Library, where she thereafter worked for many years. She was active in the Unitarian Church, and a member of the Boston Society for Psychical Research. Locke never married, and lived in the Dorcester area for the bulk of her life.

Locke's first book was a biography of Queen Elizabeth: Various Scenes and Events in the Life of Her Majesty (1913), as by Gladys E. Locke. Her first mystery novel, set in England like many of her books, came out the next year and was published as by Gladys Edson Locke, a byline she used until the early 1920s when it changed more simply to "G.E. Locke." In all she published eleven mystery novels, some with the recurring characters like Inspector Burton or Mercedes Quero. Beginning in 1922, her books were mostly published by L.C. Page of Boston, though two later titles came out in England only. The full list of mystery novels, in chronological order, is as follows:  That Affair at Portishead Manor (1914); Ronald o' the Moors (1919); The Red Cavalier (1922); The Scarlet Macaw (1923); The Purple Mist (1924); The House on the Downs (1925); The Golden Lotus (1927); The Redmaynes (1928); Grey Gables (UK only, 1929); The Fenwood Murders (UK only, 1931), and The Ravensdale Mystery (1935).

None of her novels are fantasies, but The Purple Mist comes perhaps the closest to being one. (It was first published in June 1924 by L.C. Page of Boston, and an undated reprint by A.L. Burt is often erroneously cited as the first edition.) The New York Times described the book as follows:  "The story takes its name from a supposedly supernatural phenomenon but recently revived in the old Devonshire village that straggles around Craghaven Castle, the scene of the book's strange goings-on. This regally tinted vapor, after a lapse of sundry centuries had, just before the story opens, begun to rise again to herald the passage across the Devon moors of a Phantom Coach, that brings death to any one who ventures to check or investigate its course. That forms but the initial mystery . . .  All in all, The Purple Mist remains sheer melodrama, as indeed it was the author's intention to make it. It has thrills; it has compelling onward sweep of narrative; it has moments of genuine interest. Readers not insistent on delicate shades and subtle overtones will find excitement, and find it in generous spasms, in G.E. Locke's pages" (13 July 1924).   The book has weird atmosphere throughout, though the Phantom Coach and purple mist are rationalized in the end as cover operations for smugglers.

Reviewers of other books by Locke were less kind.  Of The Scarlet Macaw, the New York Times opined: "In spite of an occasional crudeness in writing and a clumsiness in construction, The Scarlet Macaw is sufficiently supplied with suspense and unexpected incidents to qualify as an interesting detective story. . . . One fault that Mr. [sic] Locke has is an extremely mediocre prose, and this rather aggravates the reader's sensation of unreality" (28 October 1923). And of The Ravensdale Mystery, the New York Times concluded: "The story is far too long and not absorbing enough to hold the reader's interest throughout its 405 pages" (10 November 1935).

According to the Massachusetts Death Index 1901-1980, Locke died in Boston in 1945, but no specific death-date has been traced.

*Book illustrations courtesy of Steven Mayes.

Friday, June 7, 2019

David Hussey

David Hussey (b. Westham, Essex, 7 April 1903; d. London, 9 September 1959)

David Macdonald Hussey was the son of Edmund Hussey (1862-1959) and his wife Florence Jane, nee Thornber (1867-1931), who were married in the summer of 1890.  David had two older sisters, one younger sister, and an older brother who was killed in World War I.

David attended the Cherry Orchard school in Blackheath, 1913-1917, and the Windermere Grammar School, 1917-1921, before matriculating at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in October 1921.  He read History for his first two years, and then English in his final year (B.A. 1924).  He was awarded a scholarship of £40 for 1924-25. 

In 1924 Hussey was appointed Lecturer in English at the University of Ceylon, and promoted to Professor of English in 1932. He married Dora Eyden (1898-1970), a scientist and graduate of Girton College, Cambridge, on 27 September 1927 at Columbo in Ceylon. 

As David Macdonald Hussey he published a series of books on Ceylon and World History (1930-1936), and retired from the University of Ceylon in 1935, moving back to England and settling near London.  He published three works of fiction as David Hussey, No Sting, No Honey (London: Arthur Barker, [December] 1938),  The Empty Bowl (1943) and Fort Carteret (1948).  From about 1947 he held high office in the Air Ministry, and visited Ceylon again in 1957, and was preparing an official inspection of R.A.F. stations in the Far East when he suddenly fell ill. He died a few months later in the R.A.F. Hospital in Uxbridge, Middlesex. 

Hussey's first novel, No Sting, No Honey, is his only fantasy. In it, three men are shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific, where they find it to be a vast farm run by women along the lines of a bee colony, ruled by Hive Orders, with Frame-Commanders and Comb-Captains, and a Queen Bee (a wealthy old lady of ninety). The Times Literary Supplement noted that "there are some ingenious decorations in Mr. Hussey's picture of the hive, where two parties, the Traditionalists and the Realists, contend for supremacy. But the fragments are better than the whole. . . . Farce and fantasy, in sum, do not blend very well in this book, though admittedly it has sly and engaging moments" (17 December 1938).  

The Empty Bowl begins in Ceylon two thousand years ago. It concerns an old monk, who in his search for Absolute Reality has traveled far (even to Rome, briefly conversing with the disciple Peter, though he finds Christian truth unsatisfying). The novel tells of his travels with a young soldier, as they exchange stories.The Spectator noted that "David Hussey has created a moving legend with skill and wit; writing it gave him escape from present troubles. This short novel is dedicated to a night-sister in an R.A.F. hospital" (22 April 1943).

Fort Carteret is set on the Hudson River where the passengers and crew of an aircraft are marooned in Arctic darkness and in order to pass the time, they each recount stories from their past experiences. 

*Thanks to Amanda Goode, Emmanuel College Archivist, for information on Hussey's academic record, and thanks to Jonathan Lux for sharing photos.