Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Andrew James

Andrew James (b. Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland, c. January 1858; d. reg. Kensington, London, Jan.-March 1930, age 72)

“Andrew James” was the pen-name, used only on a small amount of fiction, of James Andrew Strahan, the son of John Strahan of Belfast. He was educated at Queen’s College, Belfast (later Queen’s University), receiving a B.A., M.A. and L.L.B.  He was called to the English bar in 1883.  By the mid-1880s he seems to have settled in the London area, and on 29 December 1888, in Lewisham, he married Alexandra Theresa Clarissa Caroline Emma Pergler von Perglas (1860-1950), who was known familiarly as Emma.  She had been born in Stuttgart, Germany, where her father Friedrich Wilhelm Emelius Pergler von Perglas (1830-1901), called later in life Baron von Perglas,  had been a Lieutenant in the service of the Royal Württemburg Infantry.  Emma’s mother was British, Elizabeth Mathilda Dryden (1820-1909), the daughter of the Reverend Sir Henry Dryden (1787-1837), the 3rd Baronet of Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire. 

James Andrew Strahan and Emma Strahan had only one child, daughter Norah Mary Strahan (1890-1950). In the 1890s they settled in Kensington in London.  Strahan worked in law, and from 1897 through 1929 was Reader of Equity, Inns of Court, London. In 1909 he was made Professor of Jurisprudence and Roman Law at Queens University, Belfast, a position he held through 1926.    

Strahan published many books related to his profession, some signed with his full name, some as “J. Andrew Strahan” or “J. A. Strahan”.  These include The Law of the Press (1891), co-written with Joseph R. Fisher, and A Digest of Equity (1905), co-written with G. H. B. Kendrick.  The latter book appeared in its fifth edition in 1928. A General View of the Law of Property (1895) went through seven editions through 1926, and The Principles of the General Law of Mortgages (1909) reached its third edition in 1925.  The Law of Partnership (1914), co-written with Norman H. Oldham, appeared in its fifth edition in 1927. The Bench and Bar of England (1919) collects sketches that originally appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine. 

It was also in Blackwood’s Magazine that some of Strahan’s fiction first appeared.  “Nabob Castle: A Legend of Ulster” appeared in February 1907, and “The Last O’Hara” followed in May.  Both were signed “Andrew James”, and both were collected in Ninety-Eight, and Sixty Years After (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1911).  This volume includes two connected story sets, each comprised of four stories, “Ninety-Eight” (which includes both of the 1907 Blackwood’s Magazine tales, one retitled), and “Sixty Years After”.  The section “Ninety-Eight” is historical fiction, though including folk legends, telling of the short-lived 1798 Irish uprising against British rule as occurred in County Antrim.  The “Nabob” is one of the nicknames of Galloper Starkie (soon to be known also as Hangman Starkie), who had recently returned from India with a fortune acquired by dubious means. Starkie is mercilessly cruel in dealing with the rebels. This story-section is mostly valued for its stark depiction of both sides of the conflict, though the dialect in which the tale is written makes for less-than-easy reading. (In a short Preface, the author states that the dialect is Lowland Scots, which was “the ordinary language of County Antrim famers, especially in such Scottish districts as those of the Braid and Clough Water”.) “Sixty Years After” is the far more interesting of the two story-sets, and it is explicitly a ghost story, told in modern style, of a descendent of an owner of Nabob Castle returning there a few generations later and finding he must attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the death of the Nabob’s young son, thereby putting to rest the ghosts of the Nabob and his wife. In a very brief review, The Times Literary Supplement referred to “Sixty Years After” as “a capital ghost story of the ancient house of Dundonell in the Glens of Antrim” (6 March 1911). 

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Ninety-Eight, and Sixty Years After was reissued in a small edition by the Mid-Antrim Historical Group in 1998, the year of the two-hundredth anniversary of the uprising. More recently it was retitled and reissued with notes (including a short and helpful glossary of dialectal words) and an informative afterword by John Wilson Foster as The Nabob: A Tale of Ninety-Eight (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006). 

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