Wednesday, December 28, 2011

C. Bryson Taylor

C. Bryson Taylor  (b. Washington, D.C., 7 March 1880; d. New York, c. 9 June 1936)

Charlotte Bryson Taylor was the daughter of John Yeatman Taylor (1829-1911) and Sabella Barr Bryson (1846-1919).  She had a younger brother Andrew Bryson Taylor (1883-1909).  Her father had been medical director of the United States Navy, and retired in 1891 with the rank of Rear Admiral.  Charlotte was educated at private schools in the District of Columbia and in Connecticut.  Her first story appeared in The Overland Monthly in 1898, and by 1900 her newspaper and magazine work had become regular. She always signed her work “C. Bryson Taylor”, presumably to disguise her gender. Based out of Washington D.C., and later out of New York, she published over the span of about a decade numerous stories and articles in popular magazines, most notably in Everybody’s Magazine, but also in Munsey’s Magazine, All-Story Magazine, The Cosmopolitan Magazine and The Delineator

Taylor’s first novel was In the Dwellings of the Wilderness (New York:  Henry Holt, 1904), a short fantasy in which archeologists Deane and Merritt and their men unearth the mummy of a high ranking woman from its sealed tomb in Egypt. The evidence suggests that she was walled-in while alive, behind a door marked “forbidden”, in order to trap the devil soul that possessed her.  The next morning the mummy has disappeared—soon afterwards a beautiful woman tries to lure some of the men into the desert. Those who follow her are never seen again. The leader Deane gets lost searching for one of his men, and is attacked by something which bites his shoulder, attempting to suck his blood.  Deane escapes, but the next day he and the expedition leave the desert to its secrets.  This short novel, published in April 1904, is well-written and evocative, an understated but atmospheric tale perhaps influenced by Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars, published in England in June 1903. 

Taylor’s second novel, Nicanor: Teller of Tales (Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1906), was illustrated by Troy and Margaret West Kinney, and it is a more ambitious enterprise, if a less lasting one. Set in Britain during the Roman occupation, it tells of Nicanor, the son of a peasant. Nicanor becomes enraptured by the story of the Christ-child, and in retelling it becomes a captivating storyteller himself.  The book was well received at the time of its publication.

Taylor’s brother was killed in an automobile accident in 1909. In 1911, her father, after some years of declining health, shot himself in the head.  Taylor’s published output ceased, and for a while she worked on the staff of Everybody’s Magazine, to which she had been a regular contributor. Taylor married Anderson Oakes Randall (c. 1882-1917) in November 1912.  After her husband’s death in New York in May 1917, she disappeared from public life, and died in early June 1936. She was buried in the family plot near her husband and mother in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on June 13, 1936.

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Neglected Fantasists”, Fastitocalon no. 2 (2010). 


  1. Can't recall if I commented elsehwere on your blog, but this blog is utterly addictive. I love reading about the "unknowns" and the "lesser knowns." I can't get enough of them. There is enough here to keep me busy in my book hunting for several months...if not years. And thanks so much for adding my blog to your blog roll. I only wish I had the time and resources to research the lives of the writers whose books I enjoy writing about.

    Just off hand - do you know anything about Virginia Swain who wrote the very strange thriller THE HOLLOW SKIN (1937)? It seems to be her only venture into weird fiction and it is one of the most bizarre novels I've read in years. I plan on writing it up soon on my blog. It would be great if I could include some biographical info (for a change) on Swain.

  2. Thanks for the comments, John. I do have a folder on Virginia Swain (1899-1968), who was a journalist in the 1920s after getting a degree at the University of Missouri in 1921. In 1925 she married Philip Duffield Stong (1899-1957), who became a better-known and more prolific writer than Virginia; his best-known novel is probably STATE FAIR (1932). He did edit an fantasy anthology OTHER WORLDS (1941), containing a lot of familiar writers for WEIRD TALES (including Lovecraft), but it also has a story, "Aunt Cassie", by his wife. Give me a week or two and I'll try to write up an entry on her!