Thursday, April 18, 2019

P.A. Stuart

P.A. Stuart (b. Greytown, Cape Colony [now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa] 25 or 29 April 1876; d. Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa, 11 March 1946)

Philip Arnold Stuart was the son of Martinus Stuart (1841-1881), a magistrate of the Ixopo district, and his wife Mary Porter Stuart, nee Taylor (1846-1918), who were married in Pietermartizburg on 24 October 1866.  They had eight children, three of whom died young.  The five surviving children included four sons and one daughter.

Little is known of Philip's youth, but some details can be gleaned from the life of his oldest brother, James Stuart (1868-1942), who became a civil servant in the Colony of Natal, and who studied the Zulu language and collected Zulu oral traditions. James Stuart published a History of the Zulu Rebellion (1906), and, in the 1920s, five school readers in Zulu. (His extensive collection of materials have been preserved, and a series of books from The James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples began appearing in 1976.)  Martinus Stuart was killed in July 1881 in the Battle of Ingogo of the Anglo-Transvaal war, after which their mother took James and two of his brothers (presumably including Philip, the youngest) to England, where they were educated.  James returned to Natal in 1886, when he was eighteen.  Philip presumably returned in the 1890s, for he married May Alice Runciman (1876-1958) in Pietermaritzburg on 4 September 1901. They had eight children, four sons (one of whom died young) and four daughters.
The 1938 second edition

Philip shared with his brother James a considerable interest in the Zulu language and history.  His book on the Zulu language first appeared  as Stuart's Zulu Course (1907; second edition 1912), and was retitled for its third edition as A Zulu Grammar for Beginners (1932; fourth edition 1940).

All of his books appeared as by P.A. Stuart.  His one work of historical fiction was An African Attila: Tales of the Zulu Reign of Terror (London:  T. Fisher Unwin, 1927).  It contains nine stories primarily centered on the Zulu ruler Shaka (1787-1828), spelt by Stuart as "Tshaka," who was sometimes called the "Black Napoleon" or an "African Attila," for in twelve years he conquered an area in southern Africa larger than western Europe, unifying many tribes and thus temporarily resisting European domination. A second edition of An African Attila, with illustrations, was published in Pietermartizburg in 1938. An African Attila was translated into Zulu as Unkosibomvu (1938, reprinted 1963, 1964 and 1978).  One of the stories from the book was made into a play in Xhosa (a Bantu language related to Zulu), and performed at the Freemantle School in Lady Frere in the early 1940s.

P.A. Stuart worked as a civil servant in Pietermaritzburg. At the time of his death he was a resident of Durban, though he died in a suburb of Cape Town.

Monday, April 15, 2019

M.H. James

M.H. James (b. Eltham, Kent, 17 July 1858; d. Marylebone, London, 9 December 1938)

Margaret Helen James was the oldest of four children, two sons and two daughters, of Henry Haughton James (1827-1885) and his first wife, Sophia Courthope (1833-1866).  Margaret also had one half-brother and one half-sister from her father's second marriage in 1867, to Annie Sparks (1838-1909).  She was a first cousin of the ghost-story writer M.R. James--her father was the younger brother of Reverend Herbert James (1822-1909), the father of M.R. James.

Her only book was Bogie Tales of East Anglia (Ipswich: Pawsey & Hayes, 1891). Despite its title, which makes it sound like a collection of weird tales, it is a collection of twenty folk tales, as recorded or remembered by Miss James.  Only the first thirteen have a "bogie" element, while the remaining seven are not supernatural at all.

M.H. James worked as an index-maker for over forty years. According to her obituary in the journal of the Alpine Club, she possessed "two assets of great value to her in her work: a wide knowledge and a really brilliant memory."  Her work was praised for its accuracy and completeness.  She was responsible for the index to her cousin M.R. James's Suffolk and Norfolk (1930). Margaret Helen James died of pneumonia at the Nightingale Hospital in Marylebone. 

Bogie Tales from East Anglia was reprinted in 2019, with an appropriate new subtitle "A Victorian folklore collection" and an introduction by Francis Young.  The contents are slightly altered (mostly in terms of punctuation), but also the footnotes, originally at the end of the book, now appear throughout the book on relevant pages. Francis Young interestingly notes that Morley Adams (1876-1954), in his book In the Footsteps of Borrow and Fitzgerald (1914), plagiarized some of James's stories without any credit to her. 


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Katharine Metcalf Roof

Katharine Metcalf Roof (b. Clifton Springs, New York, 31 March 1871; d. probably New York City, after 1958)

Katharine Metcalf Roof (her first name is often mispelt Katherine) was the only child of Francis Henry Roof (1840-1916), a physician (and a 1862 graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University), and his first wife, Mary Metcalf Stocking (1841-1917), who were married in 1866.

Katharine was educated at private schools, and at the New York School of Art.  Her parents were divorced in the 1890s, and in 1901 her father was remarried to a much younger woman.

Katharine started publishing in 1902, and from then on through the 1920s she was a prolific writer of short stories and novellas for Ainslee's Magazine, The Smart Set, All-Story, The Century Magazine, Munsey's Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and many others. Though her output diminished in the 1930s, she published a good number of detective stories on into the 1940s. She also published some weird tales. Two appeared in Ghost Stories in December 1927 ("How I Got Back My Soul")  and February 1928 ("My Bewitched Bedroom"), while another, "A Million Years After," appeared in Weird Tales in November 1930. A ghost story, "The Edge of a Dream," had earlier appeared in The Smart Set for December 1907. Despite her prolificity, very few of her stories have ever been reprinted.

With regard to books, Roof published three plays, two works of nonfiction and three novels. The plays include Three Dear Friends: A Feminine Episode in One Act (1914), The Mirror: An Original One Act Play (1924) and Man under the Bed (1924). ("The Mirror" is a play about reincarnation; it originally appeared in Shadowland, July 1920.) Her first work of nonfiction, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase (1917), a biographical work on her former teacher at the New York School of Art, was her most successful. Her other nonfiction title was Colonel Williams Smith and Lady: The Romance of Washington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams (1929).

Of her three novels, the first, The Stranger at the Hearth (1916), is a study of New York society, while her third, Murder on the Salem Road (1931), is both a romance and a murder mystery, set in the late 1830s, during the presidency of Martin Van Buren. With regard to supernatural literature, Roof's main contribution is her second novel, The Great Demonstration (New York: D. Appleton, 1920). It is primarily a romance, with some occult happenings. Basically it is a love triangle between two men and one woman.  Both Roger Lessing and Terry Endicott are in love with Lucretia Dale.  When Terry goes off to war, Lucretia decides that she loves him, but Terry is reported dead, and Roger then presses her to marry him.  Roger is a proponent of New Thought, believing that "What I desire, will come to me." He has become successful but is rather arrogant and unpleasant. To gain Lucreita's favor he strengthens his will and attempts mind control. When Terry returns after having only been imprisoned in Germany, Roger uses astral projection, which goes tragically awry. The novel is flawed but not wholly without interest. 

The last I have been able to trace Roof is to December 1958, when she renewed the copyright on her book Murder on the Salem Road. She was then living in New York City, where she had resided for decades.  (If any one can supply an obituary and a death date, I'd be grateful.) 




Saturday, April 6, 2019

Joan Davids / Joan Hewitt

Joan Davids (b. Hampstead, London, 23 November 1912; d. reg. Windsor, Berkshire, July-Sep. 1981)

Little is known of Joan Evelyn Davids. One entry in a writer's directory (1977) lists her as a writer and portraitist. She married Arthur F. Hewitt in Hemel Hemsptead in late 1948.  So far as I know, she published only two books.

The first, under her maiden name Joan Davids, was The Glastonbury Adventure (London:  Peter Lunn, 1946). It is set up like a book of the type that Alan Garner would write a few decades later. A bunch of (annoying) children become involved in the mythic legends of Glastonbury, and most of the book is seemingly just that, if on the light side, until the final chapter throws a curve ball, making the book into something on the lines of a ghost story, with an unexpected and disappointing final twist (in the final line) that undermines any interpretation.

Under her married name, as Joan Hewitt, she published one additional novel, A Pity Beyond Telling (1956). It is a story of eccentric characters and love in a country village called Broone.

Copies of both books are held in the Robert Aickman Collection at Bowling Green State University, in Bowling Green, Ohio.  The Glastonbury Adventure is inscribed by the author to Aickman.  One suspects that she was a client of the Richard Marsh Agency, the literary agency run by Aickman and his wife, and that they secured publishers for the two books. 

The writer's directory listing for Hewitt notes two further items: "The Grandfather Clock," as by Joan Davids, was read by May E. Jenkin on the BBC Children's Hour on 23 May 1950;  and a second item, possibly unpublished, is given as "Unfinished Portrait of a Royal Nanny" (Royal Archives). 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Henry S. Wilcox

Henry S. Wilcox (b. Delhi, Iowa, 22 November 1855; d. Chicago, Illinois, 18 May 1924)

Henry S. Wilcox was the second of nine children (seven sons, two daughters)  of Erastus Wilcox, Jr.,  (1817-1914), a farmer, and his wife Matilda Casey (1818-1882).

Henry became a lawyer in Des Moines, Iowa, and on 30 May 1878 he married Mary A. Boeye, about six years his junior, in Cerra Gordo, Iowa.  They had at least two children, one son and one daughter.  The family moved to Chicago in the 1890s. Henry self-published, or vanity-published, eight books between 1885 and 1909, including two novels, four books about aspects of the law, and one final collection of poems, Joys of Earth (1909), dedicated to his wife of thirty years.

His first book was a novel, Flaws (1885), as "By a Lawyer." It was republished as A Strange Flaw (1906), under the author's name.  It is a strange book concerned with frauds devised in connection with railroad building. An advertisement for the later version notes: "This novel shows by a thrilling story how small a flaw is likely, under our present system of government, to cause widespread distress and great injustice when used by skillful schemers for the purposes of exploitation. The thread of the narrative introduces scenes in the state legislature, U.S. Circuit Court, U.S. Supreme Court, and the president's mansion, and the interest of the reader is held to the last." But this description fails to show the rather heavy-handed satire (e.g., a newspaper editor is named "A. Lyer"). It exemplifies Wilcox's criticism of inequalities in American society.

His second novel is even stranger, and difficult to describe adequately.  It is called The Great Boo-Boo (Des Moines, Iowa: J.B. Swinburne,1892), described on the title page as "a tale of fun and fancy, replete with love, wit, sentiment and satire." It is one of a small genre of crackpot fantasies that came out in America (usually self-published) from around the 1880s through the early 1900s. Perhaps the most notable of such titles is Etidorpha (1895), by John Uri Lloyd. 

The Great Boo-Boo,  reprinted in 2019 by Ramble House with an introduction by Chris Mikul, has as set-up a ship-wrecked embezzler name Hogg stranded on the island of King Monop, who lives in a palace of crystalised human tears and blood.  The blurb describes the book as "a unique mixture of fantasy and science fiction, social satire and farce, with bonus scenes of torture, blood drinking, nudity, homoeroticism and lesbianism." One aspect this blurb omits is how smooth and readable the witty prose style is. 

Wilcox's other titles include:  The Trials of a Stump-Speaker (1906), about his thankless work in politics; and his four satiric considerations of the law,  Foibles of the Bench (1906), Foibles of the Bar (1906), Frailties of the Jury (1907) and Fallacies of the Law (1907).

Though I found no record of his wife Mary's death, Henry was married again on 27 March 1912, to Eugenie [sometimes spelt Eugenia] Beeman (1865-1941) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Both Henry and his second wife died in Chicago.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mark Channing

Mark Channing (b. Kentish Town, Middlesex, 30 March 1879; d. Amersham, Buckinghamshire, 19 December 1943)

"Mark Channing" was the pseudonym of Leopold Aloysius Matthew Jones, the first of four children of George Horatio Jones (1844-1920), a dental surgeon, and his wife, Blanche Louisa Lucas (1843-1908).  He had two younger brothers and one sister.

Little is known of his early life and education.  His father published, as George H. Jones, a book Dentistry: Its Use and Abuse (1872), and sought a patent in 1875 on a method of adapting artificial teeth by use of atmospheric pressure. A further book was on Painless and Perfect Dentistry (1885).

Leopold was a medical student at Guy's Hospital Medical School before he served in the Boer War, returning to England in 1902, after which he joined the Indian Army and started out at Fort St. George in Madras, though he was later stationed in Ceylon, Bangalore, and other places. Since boyhood he had aspired to be a poet, and in Madras he published a slim book Poems (1904), bylined Leopold Jones, with a larger follow-up of the same title the following year. He spent close to twenty years as an officer in the Indian army, retiring in October 1921. In the summer of 1910 he married Anna ("Nan") Maria Levy, with whom he had two daughters and one son.

After retiring from the army with the rank of Major, he worked for the British Hungarian Bank. From 1924-26, he served as editor of the Economic Supplements of Le Temps in Paris, and from 1929-31 held a similar position at The Morning Post in London. He began publishing short fiction and character sketches, first as "Major L.A.M. Jones." By the early 1930s he was using the byline "Mark Channing." His first novel was serialized in The Daily Mail from May 4 through June 21, 1933.  King Cobra (London: Hutchinson, [June] 1933; Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, [June 1934]) was the first of four novels Captain Colin Gray, of the English Secret Service in India.  The Colin Gray thrillers were similar to the novels of Talbot Mundy, and their mix of adventure and Indian mysticism was popular with readers, particularly in the United States.  The follow-up novels were White Python (London: Hutchinson, [April] 1934; Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott,[October 1934]), The Poisoned Mountain (London: Hutchinson, [July 1935]; Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, [November 1935]), and Nine Lives (London: Hutchinson, [August 1937]; Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, [September 1937]).

Channing also published a nonfiction volume, Indian Mosaic (1936), which was retitled India Mosaic for its U.S. release (also in 1936), and one non-fantastic novel, Indian Village (1939), retitled The Sacred Falls: A Novel of India for its U.S. edition published three months later. At the time of his death at the age of 64, Channing was working on what was described to be his finest work, The White Bird, a book seeking to show a common foundation for all religions.

A collection of thirty-four short stories, The Breath of Genius (London: Hutchinson, [October 1944]), appeared posthumously, and only in England. It contains a short memoir of Channing by Sir John Pollock, who notes that Jones was familiarly called "Lamb" (from his initials, L.A.M.) and that he used a pseudonym when he turned to fiction because he was told that "Jones" was impossible for an author.  Pollock notes: "he was tall and massive, and held himself well; and on this big body was set a big, handsome head, with expressive features, and very fine, often laughing, dark blue eyes.  Habitually he dangled a gold-rimmed monocle slung on a broad silk ribbon which he used in his right eye for reading; and this, coupled with a certain easy, courteous manner that he had in all things, gave him somewhat the look of those grand Irish gentlemen of a century and over ago, from whom indeed he was doubtless descended."


Lippincott, 1934
Lippincott, 1934
Lippincott, 1935
Lippincott, 1937

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nicholas Olde

Nicholas Olde (b. Hampstead, London, 8 October 1879; d. reg. Thorrington, near Colchester, Essex, July-Sep. 1951)

The pseudonymous "Nicholas Olde" is remembered primarily for one book, The Incredible Adventures of Rowland Hern (London: William Heinemann, [March] 1928). The copyright registration in the U.S. fortunately gives the author's real name, A.L. Champneys, thus allowing  us to find some biographical information on the author.

Amian Lister Champneys was the oldest of four children (two sons, two daughters) of Basil Champneys (1842-1935), a well-known architect of many collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings, and his wife Mary Theresa Ella Drummond (1858-1941), who were married in 1876. Basil's father and one of his brothers were clergyman (his father was very late in life made the Dean of Lichfield). Basil had been one of eight children of a hard-working old county family with only a modest income; at his death he left an estate valued at nearly fifty-thousand pounds. Amian's youngest sibling was Adelaide Mary Champneys (1888-1966), who published a number of books, some of which were fairly popular in England and America, including Miss Tiverton Goes Out (1925), which appeared anonymously. Adelaide also co-wrote a pseudonymous book with her other brother, the clergyman Michael Weldon Champneys (1884-1957). (I have written in more detail on Adelaide here.)

Amian attended the Charterhouse school in Godalming, Surrey, and in 1898 matriculated at New College, Oxford (B.A. 1902). He followed his father's footsteps and became an architect. Under his own name he published one book, Public Libraries: A Treatise on Their Design, Construction and Fittings (1907).

Under the pseudonym "Nicholas Olde" Amian published three books. The first was The Incredible Adventures of Rowland Hern. It collects fifteen episodes of crimes studied by Rowland Hern and his Watson-like unnamed narrator.  The cases themselves are tinged with humor and paradox in the manner of G.K. Chesterton.  Aside from the reprinting of one story ("A Collector of Curiosities") in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in July 1942, no other stories were reprinted until Jack Adrian selected "The Windmill" for his Twelve Tales of Murder (1998).  The whole collection was reprinted by Ramble House in October 2005.

In 1933 "Nicholas Olde" published Essex Verses and Others: In Tendring Hundred and the Pageant of Progress, a slim volume of poetry (39 pp.), which in 1934 was expanded to be (at 86 pp.) The Last Goddess (Essex Verses and Others).